Hazmat Crews Continue Making Progress Cleaning up Mercury from Martinez Streets
Downtown Amtrak Station to Remain Closed over the Weekend for Further Cleanup
Friday, May 12, 2023
Hazmat cleanup crews this week have removed mercury from most streets in downtown Martinez where a maintenance truck unknowingly spilled small amounts of the toxic substance on its trash-pickup route earlier in the week. Until the cleanup work is finished, people should avoid walking in areas that have been cordoned off, even if they are outside the originally identified areas.
A health advisory remains in effect while hazmat workers finish cleanup at a few remaining sites, including the downtown Amtrak station where the mercury was initially discovered on Monday by paramedics responding to another unrelated matter. The Amtrak station is expected to remain closed through the weekend.
Cleanup crews from CCH, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a private contractor have worked through the week to neutralize and remove all detectable mercury from more than 3,800 feet of roads along the city maintenance truck's route, an area that eventually extended to locations including in front of Rankin Park and a parking lot in the Martinez Marina.
Health officials believe the mercury was placed in a garbage can in the train station parking lot and, on May 8, removed by a city crew emptying trash cans along a route between the lot and the city yard off Buckley.
It was initially believed that the mercury spill was confined to the Amtrak station, but on Tuesday health officials found traces of mercury that dripped from the truck along the city crew's route on nearby streets, prompting the May 9 health advisory from Contra Costa Health (CCH) to avoid walking on those streets and to remain on sidewalks.
Exposure to mercury vapors can cause health problems, particularly from prolonged indoor exposure over time. None of the outdoor contamination was measured at levels high enough to create an immediate risk to health. CCH issued the health advisory as a precaution, to warn people against tracking traces of mercury inside, where risk of exposure would be greater. CCH's CORE homeless outreach teams are communicating with residents experiencing homelessness who are living outdoors near the spill to ensure they have access to information and healthcare if needed.
Anyone who believes they may have walked through or come in contact with mercury from this week's spill in Martinez, such as by walking in the street or gutter in an affected area, should place shoes, clothing or other items inside two sealed bags, place outside in a secure and sunny location, and call 925-655-3200 for instructions.
Other regulatory agencies are also assessing the potential environmental impacts of the mercury spill and whether it contaminated waterways where the toxin could be absorbed by fish and shellfish that people eat.
The source of the mercury remains under investigation by law enforcement. Anyone with information about the dumping of the mercury at the Amtrak station is encouraged to contact the Martinez Police Department's tip line at 925-372-3440.
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