Grafton Street Mecury Release

 
Site Contact:
Catherine Young
OSC

young.catherine@epa.gov

Site Location:
311 Grafton Street
Worcester, MA 01604
response.epa.gov/GSMercuryR2
NRC#: 954911

At 1745hrs on 22 SEPT 2010, the EPA Phone Duty Officer received a call from MassDEP requesting assistance with a mercury release at an elementary school in Worcester, MA and possibly 5 privately owned residences.

MassDEP stated that on Tuesday, 21 SEPT 2010, a student brought a pint sized jar of mercury into the elementary school and was seen showing it to a few of his classmates. Administrative officials at the school became concerned this morning after learning about the incident. The Fire Department HazMat team, as well as the MassDEP responded to the scene and performed an initial evaluation.

Initial reports indicated that perimeter air monitoring of the school resulted in ambient air levels up to 40,000 nanograms/cubic meter of mercury. The residential source property is located next to the school where droplets of mercury where observed on the ground. The City of Worcester has hired a cleanup contractor to initiate the clean up at the school.

MassDEP has requested US EPA assistance for the evaluation of 5 privately owned residences, as well as the elementary school. OSC Young and START contractors have been deployed to the scene with monitoring equipment.

Media interest is anticipated to be high. EPA's Public Affairs office has been notified and is coordinating with the MADEP Public Affairs office.
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Site Update #5, and Final; 1700 Hrs, Monday, September 27, 2010

EPA's Completed Activities:
All sampling at the residential properties by EPA
All sampling of residents personal items
Agreement made between EPA and the Worcester Public Schools stating that EPA would dispose of contaminated materials at the elementary school and from the residential properties
Agreement made between EPA and the Worcester Public Schools stating that the city would provide replacement for all materials disposed of at the school and at the residential properties

Property Information:
111 properties visited
83 of these properties were monitored
79 were cleared for contamination
4 required removal action
5 refused access
23 were not monitored due to a variety of reasons

EPA's On-Going Activities:
Continue data management activities with AST and START in the Boston REOC
Removal activities at the mercury source property where all contaminated materials have been removed and are staged within an isolated area
Contaminated materials from the residential properties and the elementary school will be consolidated and sampled for disposal
Scheduling transportation and disposal of contaminated materials from the residential properties as well as the elementary school
EPA will participate in a Worcester Public Schools parent meeting on Wednesday, September 29th at 6pm. The meeting will include EPA, DEP, Worcester Public Health and Worcester Emergency Management

MADEP On-Going Activities:
Sampling 7 of the 23 remaining residential properties
Properties specifically had a child's backpack that detected contamination at or above 1,000 ng/m3

Media Interest:
Press conference was held on Monday, September 27th at 4:30pm
Dr Morse of the Worcester Department of Public Health announced the re-opening of the Grafton Street School
This was the last scheduled press conference due to the completion of all emergency response activities

All resources were demobilized from the incident on Monday, September 27th at approximately 6:30 pm.

Case Closed.

USEPA Region 1
Emergency Operations Center
Duty Officer (24/7): 617.723.8928
Duty Office: 617.918.1236
Duty Officer Blackberry: 857.383.8450
Responder Blackberry: 857.383.8451

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Site Status: Sunday 9/26/2010 at 1300 Hours

The Grafton Street Mercury Response continued field operations today with 9 screening teams, consisting of 3 to 4 of the available personnel. The teams may consist of EPA, Atlantic Strike Team, MADEP, the City of Worcester, and START. To date, these teams have evaluated 58 residential properties, finding 3 properties with mercury concentrations above the action levels. Necessary removal actions at these homes have been minimal. EPA expects to be complete with field activities within the next 24 hours. After that time, EPA representatives will be available to answer questions from concerned families regarding their personal items and next steps.

The City of Worcester will be allowing students/parents to retrieve approved personal belongings beginning early this week. The only items that students/parents will be able to keep have been screened and cleared to be below the action levels. The City of Worcester is working on a plan to be able to provide replacement or reimbursement for items that need to be disposed of due to the release.

EPA's On-Going Activities:
* Continued screening of the potentially contaminated homes (personal items exceed 300 nanograms/cubic meter)
* Cleanup activities at residential homes where mercury concentrations exceeded 1,000 nanograms/cubic meter
* Development of outreach and information materials for those impacted by the mercury release (available in both Spanish and English)
* Development of plans and procedures for addressing response related damage at the contaminated homes

Response Support:
* 6 OSCs on scene currently
* 6 members of the Atlantic Strike Team
* 6 DPH
* 2 MADEP
* 2 members of ERT
* 4 ERT contractors
* 12 START members
* 1 ERRS clean up team (6 members)

Case Pends.

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Status Report - Sunday 26 September 2010 at 1000 hrs

• Incident Objectives refined and documented
• Continue to evaluate homes where mercury screening concentrations of bagged clothing exceed is equal to or greater than 300 ng/m3.
• Continue abatement actions where mercury concentrations in homes exceed 1000 ng/m3 using the Residential Mercury Monitoring Procedures established for this response.
• Continue to disseminate information on mercury health risks in English and Spanish.
• Continue to develop outreach materials for families impacted by mercury contamination.
• Develop plans and procedures to address personal possessions disposed due to contamination.
• Residential Mercury Monitoring Procedures updated, documented, and distributed to monitoring teams.
• Flyer developed in English & Spanish for monitoring teams to leave if no one is home.
• Residential Monitoring

Utilizing 9 teams of 3 to 4 personnel from a pool of available representatives from EPA, USCG, START, DEP, and the City of Worcester
• 48 homes cleared (No readings over 1000 ng/m3 anywhere in the home)
• 37 additional homes visited (no one home, denied access, etc.)
• Residential Abatement
• 1 drain replaced at 1 home
• Bags of clothing removed from 2 homes
• Overnight venting of a washing machine at 1 home
• ERRS staff reduced to reflect conditions encountered.


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As of 9/25/2010 at 1300hrs:
The response continues at the Grafton Elementary School and the surrounding neighborhoods. EPA continues to work with MADEP and Worcester DPH to identify the extent of contamination and perform removal actions at residential properties, when necessary. The EPA ERRS contractor was mobilized on Friday to perform decontamination and cleanup activities at properties identified by the sampling teams. A total of 19 homes have been screened for contamination with four homes being identified as exceeding the action levels. Those homes have undergone decontamination to address identified hot spots and items of concern within the homes. An additional 80 homes have qualified to be screened. It is expected that the screening of these homes will be complete early next week.

The Unified Command and the school board have agreed upon an action plan concerning the students/families personal items and is working to carry out that plan. All items that had readings below 1,000 nanograms/ cubic meter will be returned to the owners of the items. All items with readings above will be disposed of properly. EPA is working with DPH and the school board to develop information sheets to provide to the families explaining the decision to either dispose of or return their items and the next steps in the process for the families. Reimbursement and/or replacement options have been discussed and Unified Command will determine the most appropriate method to repair response related damage while staying within the EPA guidance on reimbursement.

Media interest has been high. EPA community involvement coordinators are on scene to interact with the press as well as the community.

The Command Post has been relocated to a near by building to accommodate the large number of responders that are on scene.

Response actions have consisted of the following:

EPA's Completed Activities:

* Assisting the elementary school clean up contractor with the screening of the students/families personal items
* Screening of 19 properties in the surrounding neighborhoods, based on the results from the screening of the students/families personal items


EPA's On-Going Activities:

* Obtaining access agreements from homes that may be contaminated based on the initial personal item screening results
* Initial screening of the potentially contaminated homes (personal items exceed 1,000 nanograms/cubic meter)
* 80 homes are left to be screening and potentially decontaminated
* Cleanup activities at residential home that have been identified as contaminated
* Development of outreach and information materials for the families and communities

Response Support:

* 6 OSCs on scene currently
* 6 members of the Atlantic Strike Team
* 6 DPH
* 2 MADEP
* 2 members of ERT
* 4 ERT contractors
* 12 START members
* 1 ERRS clean up team (6 members)

Case Pends.
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From: R1 RRC/R1/USEPA/US
To: Emergency Notification
Date: 09/23/2010 06:04 PM
Subject:
Update #2: OSC Response to Mercury Release in Worcester, MA

As of 9/23/2010 at 1600hrs, the response consists of the following:

Elementary School On-Going Activities (performed by the school clean up contractor) :
* Continuous screening inside and outside of the grades 3 thru 6 school building
* General cleaning of the first, second, and third floors of the school
* Identifying hot spots, mostly on the third floor, and performing clean up activities
* Voluntary urinalysis for students and their families
* The school will remain closed until further notice

EPA's Completed Activities:
* Screening and clearing of the buses for mercury contamination
* Screening of two properties on an adjacent street

EPA's On-Going Activities:
* Assisting the elementary school clean up contractor with the screening of the students/families personal items
* Obtaining access agreements from homes that may be contaminated based on the initial personal item screening results
* Initial screening of the potentially contaminated homes (personal items exceed 1,000 nanograms/cubic meter)
* Clean up activities at one residential home that has been identified as contaminated

Response Support:
* 3 OSCs on scene currently
* 4 additional OSCs mobilizing to the response at 0630hrs
* 2 members of ERT
* 6 START members
* 1 ERRS clean up team

Lumex Equipment Support
* 2 - EPA R1
* 1 - EPA R2
* 1 - ERT
* 4 - NDT (National Decontamination Team)

The current estimate for the extent of contamination is 30 to 36 residential properties. MADEP, EPA, and DPH have been working together to determine the action levels for residential properties that warrant an initial screening, clean up activities, and reoccupation levels, when necessary. Response activities will continue until 2100hrs this evening and will resume at 0630hrs tomorrow morning. It is expected that the response activities will continue into the weekend.

Case Pends.
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From: R1 RRC/R1/USEPA/US
To: Emergency Notification
Date: 09/23/2010 06:36 AM

Subject:
Update #1: OSC Response to Mercury Release in Worcester, MA

At 9/22/2010 at 2000hrs, OSC Young arrived on scene and integrated into the incident command structure by coordinating with MADEP and the HazMat team.

OSC Young reported the following:
* The school is divided up into two buildings (grades K thru 2, 3 thru 6), and only the 3 thru 6 building has been contaminated
* The building has been evacuated and the entire school is closed until further notice
* Additional readings in and around the school have been taken, indicating that the contamination has spread throughout the building
* START support arrived with 3 Lumex and 2 Gerome meters to assist in the evaluation of the additional properties
* The pools of mercury in the source area have been partially addressed via a plastic tarp covering
* The school is working with DPH and has reached out to parents to initiate a mass clothing screening process
* All the students and parents are to bring their personal items worn on Tuesday and Wednesday back to the school for screening on Thursday
* The school has hired Clean Harbors to address the contamination that exists within and around the building

EPA's activities will consist of:
* Providing analytical support to the school during the clothing screening process - START will be assisting in bagging the potentially contaminated items and taking a head space reading to determine if the items have been contaminated
* Obtaining access from the residents whose homes have been affected by the contamination
* Providing analytical support to the MADEP at the 6 additional properties that have been identified as contaminated
* Potentially providing clean up support at the residential properties through the ERRS contract

OSC Young demobilized from the scene at 2345hrs and will re-mobilize at 0600hrs with support from OSC Hearn.

Case Pends
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From: R1 RRC/R1/USEPA/US
To: Emergency Notification
Date: 09/22/2010 07:04 PM

Subject: OSC Response to Mercury Release in Worcester, MA

On 9/22/2010 at 1745hrs, the Phone Duty Officer received a call from MADEP requesting assistance with a mercury release at an elementary school in Worcester, MA.

MADEP stated that on Tuesday, September 21st, a student brought a pint sized jar of mercury into the elementary school and was seen showing it to a few of his classmates. Administrative officials at the school became concerned this morning after learning about the incident. The Fire Department HazMat team, as well as the MADEP responded to the scene and performed an initial evaluation.

The MADEP responder reported the following:
* Initial perimeter monitoring of the school was performed, showing 40,000 nanograms/cubic meter of mercury
* The source property is located next to the school where droplets of mercury where observed on the ground
* 5 residential properties are suspected to be contaminated
* The school has hired a clean up contractor to initiate the clean up at the school

MADEP has requested assistance with evaluating the 5 residential homes as well as the source property. OSC Young and the START contractors have been deployed to the scene with monitoring equipment.

Media interest is expected to be high. EPA's Public Affairs office has been notified and is coordinating with the MADEP Public Affairs office.

Case Pends.

USEPA Region 1
Emergency Operations Center
Duty Officer (24/7): 617.723.8928
Duty Office: 617.918.1236
Duty Officer Blackberry: 857.383.8450
Responder Blackberry: 857.383.8451


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