On December 6,
2022, EPA received notification from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) of an elemental mercury spill in a residential rental unit (Additional Dwelling Unit or ADU) in SE Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon. ODEQ requested assistance from EPA in conducting an assessment and potential removal at the site. ODEQ reported that a large antique barometer containing mercury fell off the wall in a hallway and shattered, after which one of the adult residents made an attempt to clean up the spill using a common vacuum and other
methods. Residents of the home include a toddler and two adults, one of whom
is pregnant. All were exposed to mercury vapors, and two pets were exposed as well. It was also observed that mercury may have been tracked outside to another residence and to other locations in the Portland area by the residents.
An OSC and START contractors deployed immediately to the site
to conduct initial screening at the affected residence to determine the extent of contamination and determine what
additional cleanup activities were needed. During the assessment, mercury vapor levels inside the residence varied well above 1,000 ng/m3, but reached as high as 36,000 ng/m3 on floors to 50,000 ng/m3 for personal and household items. After the property owners and residents stated they did not have the resources to conduct a removal action, the OSC mobilized the EPA ERRS contractor and conducted a mercury cleanup and removal action at the site. EPA also coordinated with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), and the residence was cleared for re-occupancy on December 15, 2022.