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Detroit High School Engineer Indicted in Mercury Contamination Case

Release Date: 02/12/2004
Contact Information:

Suzanne Ackerman 202-564-7819 /

02/12/2004 - George Carl Bush, an engineer at Finney High School in Detroit, Mich., was indicted on Feb. 4 in Wayne County Superior Court on charges that he allegedly violated state law by illegally spreading the toxic chemical mercury in two corridors at the school. The charges allege that on Oct. 11, 2001, the defendant was angry about the allocation of school overtime hours and threatened to close the school if his union issues were not immediately addressed. A few hours later mercury was found spread in two corridors of the school and the building had to be shut down for several days for decontamination. The clothing and/or shoes of a number of students also tested positive for the presence of mercury. The defendant is charged with spreading the mercury and if convicted, faces a maximum sentence of fifteen years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. When liquid mercury is spilled, it forms mercury vapors in the air and contaminates surfaces. Human exposure to mercury occurs by breathing vapors, direct skin contact or consuming contaminated food or water. Health problems vary greatly depending on individual tolerance and the amount entering the body, but exposure to mercury in some people may result in neurological damage. The case was investigated by the Detroit Police Department, the Cleveland Area Office of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, the FBI and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality-Office of Criminal Investigations with the assistance of EPA’s National Enforcement Investigations Center and the EPA Region 5 Emergency Response Branch. It is being prosecuted by the State Attorney General’s Office in Detroit. An indictment is merely an accusation and all defendants are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in a court of law.