On August 17, 2005 at 1600 hrs. EDT, a small quantity of elemental mercury was discovered on the basement floor at the Ashland Water Plant by a plant employee. The Ashland Fire Department responded and established an exclusion zone for this area of the plant. The Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection (KYDEP) arrived onscene, and assisted the City of Ashland with finding a cleanup contractor (CMC, Inc.) CMC arrived onscene at approximately 0200 hrs. on 08/18, and began cleanup operations.
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EPA On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) Art Smith mobilized to the scene on 08/18, and coordinated the further response to the incident. OSC Smith met with representatives of the City of Ashland, including Emergency Management, and the Health Department, and outlined the process for completing the cleanup. OSC Smith remained onscene on 08/18-08/19 and recorded measurements taken by a Lumex Mercury Analyzer.
On 08/19 at approximately 1430 hrs., EPA determined that the cleanup was complete. This was made on the basis of no visible mercury remaining, and that all Lumex readings were below 2,000 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m3). (EPA Region 4 has established guidance for mercury vapors in industrial settings to be less than 3,000 ng/m3, following cleanup). The OSC communicated these findings to the Health Department rep, and recommended that the restrictions on entering the basement be lifted. The OSC demobilized the Site at about 1500 hrs., marking the termination of the EPA response to this incident.