On September 15, 2009, a flooring contractor on the way to install carpeting at an 8 unit apartment complex in Twin Falls, Twin Falls County, Idaho, observed what appeared to be beads of free elemental mercury in the parking lot of the complex. The contractor immediately notified the local fire and police. The Twin Falls Fire/Hazmat, the state's Region 5 Hazardous Materials Response Team (RRT5), Idaho State Police, and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) responded to the incident to begin assessment and mitigation activities. The Idaho South Central Health District was also brought into the response immediately. Twin Falls Fire/Hazmat and the state RRT5 were able to identify and remove the small amount (approximately 2 teaspoons) of the mercury in the parking lot, and also isolated the remaining mercury found in cracks in the pavement. EPA was notified by the Idaho Department of Homeland Security and and DEQ, and requested to mobilize to the site and provide air monitoring and technical assistance.
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On September 16, 2009, tEPA On-Scene Coordinators Weigel and Franklin and EPA's START contractors mobilized to the site to coordinate with local and state agencies, and to begin air monitoring and assessment activities. Investigations and interviews with residents and children during the day by the agencies and the South Central Health District revealed that several children in the immediate area had been handling the mercury in the parking lot during July 2008 and February 2009, and may have tracked it into the apartment complex, school bus, and nearby homes. Children were reported to have taken a small amount inside one apartment and spilled it on the floor. The source of the mercury had been at least two thermometers, including a health thermometer and a larger cooking thermometer, that had been broken in the parking lot by children. Several of the affected families have stated they will have their children examined and tested by their physicians for any health effects. The property owner hired a qualified hazmat removal contractor to begin removal activities on September 19, 2009.