On the evening of May 23, 2006, a parent noticed elemental mercury on their child's clothes. In turn, the parent contacted the Poison Control Center for advice. The Poison Control Center then contacted the Durham County Public Health Department (DCPHD), which immediately started an investigation into the source of the mercury. DCPHD discovered that an individual had stolen approximately 10 pounds of elemental mercury and that this individual had taken the mercury to a Church service and dispersed it to four children in spray bottles. At least one of these children took the mercury to the Oak Grove Elementary School and proceeded to "spray" other kids, the school bus, etc. with the mercury. On May 24th, Ms. Luanne Williams, Toxicologist, NC State Health Dept. contacted EPA Region 4 and requested assistance with the investigation and cleanup of the mercury contamination. EPA assessed and monitored 27 separate locations (25 residences, 1 Church, 1 School). Of the 27 locations, 18 sites needed active removal actions (including the school and Church), ranging from the removal of contaminated clothes, to the removal of floors, walls, etc.
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EPA worked in a Unified Command with the Durham County Emergency Management Agency, and the Durham County Public Health Department. Durham PD, Durham County Sheriff’s Office, State of NC EMA, and the NC State Health Dept. also integrated into the established ICS structure.