Contra Costa Health Services completes cleanup of mercury spill in Antioch

Hazardous materials crews completed the cleanup of mercury found in an Antioch neighborhood this week and are working to help residents recognize the toxic metal and prevent future exposure in the community.

The Contra Costa Health Services Hazardous Materials Response Team (HazMat) responded Monday to a complaint of an unidentified silvery substance in the 2200 block of Manzanita Way. The street was closed to through traffic after investigators identified seven separate areas on the block that contained liquid mercury.

Workers from HazMat, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) spent several days searching for and removing the toxic substance along Manzanita Way.

Specialized equipment, including instruments that measure mercury vapor in the air, helped investigators identify the areas impacted by the mercury and reduce the spread of contamination.  The mercury contamination was confined to the street and was not present on the sidewalk and private driveways.  

Local, state and federal officials will continue to monitor the situation for the next few months.

HazMat went door-to-door to share information with concerned residents, and distributed hundreds of bilingual fliers to help them identify mercury and the signs of mercury poisoning, as well as instructions for proper disposal.

Short-term exposure to high levels of mercury can cause nausea and vomiting, skin rashes, eye irritation and increased heart rate. Long-term exposure can cause serious, permanent injury or death. Contra Costa Health Services has received no reports of illness related to the spill.

Investigators did not identify the source of the spill, which was the third of its kind reported in the area since December.

While it is not illegal to possess mercury, it is illegal to dispose of it except at approved household hazardous waste disposal sites.

Contra Costa residents can drop off mercury in a container for free at one of three hazardous waste collection facilities around the county; Delta Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility in Pittsburg, Central Contra Costa Sanitation District in Martinez and West County Resource Recovery in Richmond.

Nobody should handle mercury. Anyone who sees a substance outside of a container that could be mercury should call HazMat at 925-335-3200.

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