UPDATE - Mercury spill forces reallocation of some classes Wednesday
A mercury spill at Mountain Home High School that prompted the evacuation of the main school building, followed by the cancellation of all classes Tuesday morning, is causing the school to rearrange some classes Wednesday.
According to Supt. Tim McMurtrey, "The mercury spill at MHHS has been contained. MHHS will be in session (Wednesday) as usual; however, as a precaution, all classrooms located in the sophomore hall will be closed (Wednesday). The classes usually held in the sophomore hall will be relocated throughout the high school. "
A barometer in the school's chemistry room reportedly fell and broke on the floor, spilling "an absolute large amount of mercury," according to Police Sgt. Rick Viola of the Mountain Home Police Department.
Officials said they believed the barometer was used the previous night by Boise State University instructors to teach a chemistry class at the high school. But according to Patricia Rodriguez, a student in the class, the barometer was not used that night. The barometer may simply have sprung a leak. How the mercury came to be spilled remains under investigation.
According to initial reports, the broken barometer was discovered by school staff around 7 a.m. Tuesday and was covered by rags. Students that arrived early at the school were sent to the annex area as a precaution. By 7:15 a.m., school officials decided to cancel all classes at the school.
Emergency response crews believe the spilled mercury was contained within the chemistry room but took added precautions since the substance poses "a serious health risk," Viola said.
The precautions undertaken Tuesday by the school and fire department are required by federal regulations.
The city fire department dispatched its hazardous materials team to the high school and were in direct contact with a state HAZMAT team for additional guidance on how to mitigate the spill.