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EPA to Continue Screenings of Homes in Pittsburg, Kan., in Response to Mercury Spill at Local Skate Park

Release Date: 10/01/2008
Contact Information: David Bryan, (cell) 816-896-0027, (office) 913-551-7433,; or Chris Whitley, (office) 913-551-7394,

Environmental News


(Kansas City, Kan., Oct. 1, 2008) - EPA Region 7 emergency response teams and Crawford County Health Department staff are expecting to complete the screenings of at least a dozen more homes in Pittsburg, Kan., today for mercury exposure, as a joint agency response to a spill of the toxic metal at a local skate park enters its second day.

EPA staff and contractors, along with local health department staff, have been working with the Pittsburg police and fire departments, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in response to the spill, which was reported Monday at a skating area located in Schlanger Park.

On Tuesday, EPA teams and local health department staff completed the screenings of about 40 local homes of children who were known to have played at the park during or after the time of the spill, as well as screenings of local school buildings. No major health issues were detected during those screenings, which were conducted to see if mercury had been carried back to the homes or schools on the children's clothing or belongings. At least 12 more residences in Pittsburg will be screened for mercury exposure today.

Meanwhile, EPA, KDHE and local health department staff were continuing to provide screenings of residents' clothing, shoes and belongings. Persons who think they may have come into contact with mercury from the spill are urged first to call the Crawford County Health Department at 620-231-5411 to assess their need for screenings.

Investigators believe the source of the spilled mercury is a container housed in a local building owned by the Kansas City Southern Railway. Police believe juveniles entered the building without permission and obtained an unknown quantity of mercury from a barrel at that site, and later poured the toxic liquid metal on the surface of the nearby skate park.

Local officials and EPA and KDHE staff will continue working today with staff from Kansas City Southern to develop cleanup plans for the railroad's building, and for the skate park.

Mercury can cause serious health effects, especially for young children, when its vapor is breathed, or when it comes into contact with skin. A shiny, silvery metal that is liquid at room temperature, mercury is often found in thermometers, barometers, thermostats, electrical switches, and science labs.