UPDATE - Mercury spill forces reallocation of some classes Wednesday

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

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.

Emergency crews discuss plans on dealing with a mercury spill in the high school's chemistry classroom Tuesday morning. Photo by Brian S. Orban

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.

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  • This is an absolute joke. Now we pay for what? - absolutely ludicrous. I believe in hazmat and footing the bill for truly dangerous spills, large and warranted. But, when someone breaks a little thermometer and hazmat is called. Now, tell me, who is the brainy one? This is so friggin stupid and a waste of money and time. Yet another government rule. I truly think the original standard when initially made was for Large spills, not some little thermometer.

    Am I the only person who thinks this way?

    -- Posted by midea on Tue, Feb 15, 2011, at 8:04 AM
  • Lets hope they do not respond like they did in Boise a year or so ago and end up digging up the whole school entryway,hallway and classrooms . In days gone by cleanup was done and not even mentioned. overreaction hmmmm!

    -- Posted by solaceone on Tue, Feb 15, 2011, at 8:16 AM
  • Yes you are the only one...Health problems caused by mercury depend on how much has entered your body, how it entered your body, how long you have been exposed to it, and how your body responds to the mercury.

    Mercury is harmful to both animals and humans. Children are more susceptible to mercury poisoning than adults. Exposure to even small amounts of mercury over a long period may cause negative health effects including damage to the brain, kidney, lungs, and the developing fetus. Brief contact with high levels of mercury can cause immediate health effects including loss of appetite, fatigue, insomnia, and changes in behavior or personality. Depending on the length or degree of exposure, additional symptoms such as nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, eye irritation, weight loss, skin rashes, and muscle tremors may occur.

    When exposure to mercury stops, most symptoms usually go away; however, effects on the brain and nervous system may be permanent. Once mercury has entered the body, it can take months before it is eliminated, mainly through the urine and feces. Levels of mercury can be measured in blood, urine, and scalp hair. These tests may help to predict possible health effects.

    Rather be safe then have lawsuits to deal with

    -- Posted by jlynno80 on Tue, Feb 15, 2011, at 8:20 AM
  • Jlynn80:

    Your comment said all it needs to say: You said: "Brief contact with high levels of mercury", now tell me how a thermometer is a "high level" of mercury. Like I said, I think the law was made for "high levels", not some tiny little thermometer.

    How many people played with mercury in the past? Anyone out there who did?

    -- Posted by midea on Tue, Feb 15, 2011, at 8:27 AM
  • Well, the update went from a thermometer to a barometer and the hazmat is now from here in Mtn. Home and not from the state.So glad to see MHN made the correction from the original story.

    -- Posted by midea on Tue, Feb 15, 2011, at 8:37 AM
  • I think it's just another way for teachers to get time off. The teachers in the school district are always taking days off. With supposed "Teacher in service days." Also getting time off for presidents birthdays, parent teacher conferences, Columbus day. They should have just given them Valentines day off too. Teachers would have been sufficed. They take more days off then any career. They already get three months paid vacation in the summer. Taking all these days off isn't preparing the children for the real world. They'll begin working and only get two days off during the week for months at a time. They won't be used to it. They'll all want to become teachers so they only have to work a real seven months out of the whole year.

    -- Posted by crtrnhrafan on Tue, Feb 15, 2011, at 8:44 AM
  • Actually, the barometer they are referring to is quite large (I had this chemistry class), but any time mercury is spilled they have to call in hazmat.

    And teacher's really only get paid for 8 months of work. They can choose how to spread that pay, however.

    -- Posted by lilmissmelmo on Tue, Feb 15, 2011, at 9:21 AM
  • Thanks Melmo for pointing that out. Teacher bashing is really uncalled for. They don't get paid for the summer vacation. With both of my parents being teachers I see how much work they put in outside of work as well. It's really not as easy as people make it out to be.

    -- Posted by raegurl001 on Tue, Feb 15, 2011, at 9:34 AM
  • Is this the school located on S 11th E? If it is were families located in the houses near the facility exvacuated?

    -- Posted by lordrain1922 on Tue, Feb 15, 2011, at 9:39 AM
  • They get paid for their summer break if they choose to spread their salary out. Otherwise, it is paid out through the school year. It is their choice.

    -- Posted by CuriousParents on Tue, Feb 15, 2011, at 9:40 AM
  • -- Posted by Councilman Schroeder on Tue, Feb 15, 2011, at 9:41 AM
  • How did we get from a mercury spill to blaming it on the teachers and their time off. Wait to get the entire story before we start bashing because you know there probably is more to the story. Accidents happen, kids safety are the number one priority. Love the Song Councilman. Made me chuckle a bit.

    -- Posted by proudmom3 on Tue, Feb 15, 2011, at 12:25 PM
  • I agree, teachers bashing has no place in reference to this article. What a way to twist it around to blame teachers. Unbelievable.

    Councilman: I too liked the music. Thanks

    -- Posted by midea on Tue, Feb 15, 2011, at 1:59 PM
  • *

    glade to see everyone on here being so dramatic about this. Man this town freakin rules!

    -- Posted by shockwave on Tue, Feb 15, 2011, at 2:29 PM
  • You what the real problem is here. The Boise State University instructors being able to get a degree teaching chemistry, yet not being able to handle a simple barometer. If only they would drink Session, Americas Finest Lager, the only substance known to remove toxicity from mercury.

    -- Posted by purpleyellow11 on Wed, Feb 16, 2011, at 3:59 AM
  • Knowledge is power so they say. Yesterday I was wondering myself what all the hullabaloo was about the mercury. I too played with it as a kid. I am thankful I suffered no ill effects. I went and did some research and found out that Mercury does emit vapors that can linger for weeks. Scientific American has an excellent article regarding this. Those of you who were in such a bashing mood yesterday should do the research for yourself then decide if you would want your child exposed.

    -- Posted by ejsmom on Wed, Feb 16, 2011, at 10:39 AM
  • *

    I agree Zombie. I am really disheartened. Most of the time I do not want to participate in the dialog on here because it really is banter rather than constructive dialog. Today is a perfect example. There has been so much brow beating of teachers, and hazmat that it has become worse than the playground on a school yard. Ask questions instead of accusing...I am really saddened at how low this forum can stoop when you hide behind a username and password.

    And I am sure that I will soon have a red 'x' painted across my forhead as well for speaking up.

    No one was hurt, officials did the right thing and took precautions, who knows what exactly occured, so lets discuss possible improvements for the future :)

    -- Posted by Rocklady on Wed, Feb 16, 2011, at 9:06 PM
  • crtrnhrafan....I can saw without a doubt that you are a "moron"...ya, a teacher purposely drop a thermometer so they can have a day off...your something else...

    midea...your in the same category as your fellow moron squad member...first, has indicated by several in this blog, mercury is toxic!!!!

    second, it's in a school which children reside,

    third, if the school did nothing and a child has gets mercury poisioning...they are liable..

    forth, why is money, money always brought up!

    Do me a huge favor, both of you and go back and hide under a big rock and stay there..the rest of us want to get on with our lives without you two


    -- Posted by DUMBFOUNDED IN IDAHO on Wed, Feb 16, 2011, at 11:47 PM
  • Wow, yeah, I'm a moron. First of all, I'm allowed a comment. Second of all, I never once said that a teacher is the one that purposely caused a mercury spill. I understand that things happened. I think that they over reacted with the mercury spill. When I was a kid I took apart a couple thermometers and played with the mercury. Even a thermostat for a heater on a house. They could have just mopped it up with a couple rags. It would have been no big deal. And actually I'm being realistic. There is only a couple teachers in the High School that I truly respect for their work. midea is being realistic too. It is an absolute joke that all of the law enforcement and fire department has to be called out for a tiny spill. Completely unnecessary. I didn't mean to upset anyone with the teachers. I apologize.

    -- Posted by crtrnhrafan on Fri, Feb 18, 2011, at 7:55 AM
  • CJW...you are still "here" physically. After reading many of your posts...the lingering effects are debatable. Maybe more research should be conducted on the long-term effects to the cortex area. I think a few Mountain Homies may have experienced a top-secret exposure to common sense retardant at some point in time.

    -- Posted by Ecouter on Sat, Feb 19, 2011, at 5:11 PM
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