EPA gives all clear at site of mercury spill in school

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LENOIR, N.C. - The Environmental Protection Agency has given the all clear at an elementary school in Lenoir where a fifth grader spilled mercury. 

School officials said the students would have to go to school Saturday to make up for the missed day. They canceled classed on Thursday after EPA crews said it would take at least a day to decontaminate the school and check for trace levels of the element in the air.

Environmental Protection Agency officials performed tests at Whitnel Elementary School Thursday morning. EPA officials said they want to make sure over an eight-hour period that the levels have dropped to the point children can return to class.

Police said the mercury, which was in a thermostat bulb, came from a junk yard but they are not sure which one because they said the family got it four to six months ago.

It was not until Wednesday that a fifth-grader brought it to school.

“We are still seeing low level readings in the impacted rooms that indicate they are not ready to be re-inhabited.  Once we’ve taken care of these small hot spots, then we can begin clearance of the room,” said EPA official Matthew Huyser.

 The school district is hoping to have school Friday but won’t know for sure until late Thursday afternoon.

When students and faculty come back there will be education on bringing items to school and the dangers of mercury.