Teen Charged with Mercury Spill

Teen Charged With Cardozo Mercury Spill

By: Tarran Lively – The Washington Times – February 27, 2005

A 16-year old boy was arrested yesterday afternoon in connection with the mercury contamination of Cardozo High School in Northwest. The teen was taken into custody at about 5 p.m. and charged with illegal dumping of a hazardous material, said D.C. police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile. It wasn’t known whether the boy is a student at Cardozo, but he was arrested after police identified possible suspects from a school surveillance video. The investigation is ongoing, Sgt. Gentile Said.

Authorities tested two homes in which investigators believe the mercury may have been kept before it was spilled at the school on Wednesday. Mercury vapors were found in one home, in the 3600 block of Warder Street NW, in the Petworth neighborhood. Authorities evacuated the home of 13 persons, who ranged in age from 18 months to about 60 years. None of the residents tested positive for mercury contamination, but clothing in one of the closets tested positive for mercury, said Dr. Greg Payne, the city’s health director. The crews also tested a home in the 600 block of Irving Street NW. It was not clear where the student suspected of spreading the mercury lived. Cardozo, at 13th and Clifton streets, has been closed since hazardous-materials crews found about 2 ounces of mercury in three places inside the school, including the back of a stairwell on the first floor. Cardozo Principal Reginald Ballard Jr. said last week no mercury was stored in the school. He also said the mercury was likely smuggled in by a “prankster.” D.C. schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey called the contamination a “dangerous situation.” About 600 students and 150 staff and faculty members were screened, and at least 15 persons had traces of the metallic element on their clothing.

Some students who left the building before they could be tested were examined yesterday, and all were cleared of any contamination, health officials said. The school is being cleaned and an announcement is expected today on when it will reopen. In fall 2003, students at Ballou High School in Southeast found mercury in an unlocked cabinet and threw it at walls and at each other. The contamination forced city officials to close the school for more than a month. The cleanup cost more than $1 million. The Environmental Protection Agency screened about 1,200 people and 86 homes after the students brought the toxic metal onto a Metro bus and into many of their homes. A 16-year-old Ballou High School student was arrested in the theft of the vial of mercury.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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