Two teaspoons of spilled mercury empty Eden Prairie school

  • Article by: PATRICE RELERFORD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 11, 2007 - 10:33 PM

An Eden Prairie charter school was evacuated Thursday after spilled mercury was found. The school is closed today for cleanup.

More than 290 students and staff members were forced to leave Eagle Ridge Academy in Eden Prairie on Thursday morning after about two teaspoons of spilled mercury were found in a storage area.

No one was hospitalized, Eden Prairie spokeswoman Joyce Lorenz said. But the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency sent workers to examine students and staff after the evacuation. A state chemical assessment team based at the Hopkins Fire Department sealed off affected portions of the school.

"Apparently it had been tracked around," Minnesota Pollution Control spokesperson Sam Brungardt said.

Brungardt said state officials collected 10 pairs of shoes from students and clothing from one teacher for testing.

After the evacuation, students and staff waited in the parking lot until they could be taken home, Lorenz said. School officials canceled classes for the rest of the day, and the school will remain closed today for cleanup.

When not contained in a thermometer or air-tight container, mercury can accumulate in tiny spaces and emit vapors. If inhaled, it can cause neurological and kidney damage.

"We're not sure who spilled the mercury," Hopkins Fire Chief Dale Specken said. "Right now that's under investigation."

Eagle Ridge is a grade 6-12 public charter school located on Flying Cloud Drive near Hwy. 212 and Shady Oak Road in Eden Prairie. It emphasizes a classical education. Students wear uniforms and are required to learn Latin.

This year, Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed legislation that prohibits the use of mercury in all public and private K-12 schools.

That law requires schools to stop buying mercury by the end of this year and to discard all mercury and instruments containing the toxic material by 2009. It does not apply to thermostats.

Patrice Relerford • 612-673-4395

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