On February, 23, 2005, a Cardozo High School student released a container containing greater than 2 ounces of mercury onto the floor. The mercury was spread to various areas of the school and the students were gathered into the auditorium to contain the release.
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School officials subsequently notified the District of Columbia (DC) Fire Department, the DC Emergency Management Agency (DCEMA), and the DC Department of Health (DCDOH). All parties were present on-site on February 23, 2005. The DCEMA requested USEPA assistance with the assessment and cleanup operation. At approximately 1130 hours on February 23, 2005, EPA On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) Charlie Fitzsimmons received a request from DCEMA to provide assessment operations and to conduct a cleanup action. DCEMA and DOH screened approximately 600 students in the high school and collected all the items of contaminated clothing. The clothing was placed into plastic bags. Of the items screened, approximately 2 drums were generated and these items exceeded 10 micrograms per cubic meter (g/m³).
On Wednesday, February 23, 2005, OSC Fitzsimmons visited Cardozo High School to begin the assessment and cleanup actions. OSC Fitzsimmons mobilized START and ERRS Emergency Response personnel to provide assistance at the high school. START arrived at the site and conducted air monitoring for mercury using a Lumex mercury vapor analyzer. START screened indoor areas, all public exits, and the perimeter of the school. START recorded maximum breathing zone readings of 71 ug/m³ on the first and ground floor. Primary readings around the main entrance ranged from 0.0075 to 0.0085 ug/m³. Five areas of concern (AOC) were found on the first and ground floors. ERRS began the cleanup operations within these AOCs.
On Thursday, February 24, 2005, START and ERRS continued the follow-up assessment and cleanup operation.