By Adam Smith
The North Jefferson News
Gardendale High School students who enjoyed a day off on Thursday after Wednesday's mercury spill will have to make the day up next month.
Nez Calhoun, public information spokesperson for the Jefferson County Board of Education, said students would make up the day on April 13. Students were scheduled to be off that day for the Easter holiday.
The school reopened Friday, with the exception of the room where the mercury spill occurred. School and board of education officials said there have been no health issues reported because of the spill.
Calhoun said the incident was handled properly and praised Gardendale Principal Dr. Anna Vacca and school officials for their quick action.
“Even though it was a small spill, we don’t take chances and we’re going to err on the side of caution,” she said.
Gardendale Fire Chief Clint Doss said the department received a call at about 1:23 Wednesday afternoon after a blood pressure monitor reportedly broke, spilling a small amount of mercury into a classroom.
Vacca said the spill occurred during a Health Occupation class and affected about 15 students and one teacher.
Following the spill, a teacher reportedly used a vacuum to clean it up. However, Doss said once mercury is exposed to the atmosphere, it disperses and can be toxic if inhaled.
Those exposed to the potential threat had to remove all exterior clothing and shoes and were provided with insulated suits to wear home.
An independent hazardous materials clean-up company, HEPACO, was called in to decontaminate the school on Wednesday and continued to work through Thursday. Officials from the Emergency Management Association and the Alabama Department of Emergency Management were also contacted regarding the contamination, Doss said.
“Where you run into problems is how it’s handled after the spill,” he said. “The way the EMA and ADEM views it, if it’s a tablespoon or more of mercury, it’s considered hazardous.”
By Adam Smith