Home Main Category Announcements County Health: Mercury Contamination At Martinez Amtrak Station Wider Than Initially Believed

County Health: Mercury Contamination At Martinez Amtrak Station Wider Than Initially Believed

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From County Health:

Further investigation by county health officials shows traces of mercury was inadvertently spread by a garbage truck while traveling on its route after picking up contaminated trash from a waste receptacle at the Amtrak station in downtown Martinez on Monday.

To reduce the potential risk of exposure to mercury, Contra Costa Health (CCH) asks the public to avoid walking on the streets in affected parts of downtown Martinez and use the sidewalks until the residue of a spill is removed, so people or pets do not track the material indoors. The contamination is limited to the street and has not been detected in amounts great enough to create an immediate risk to health.

“From a health standpoint, our primary concern is that people don’t step in the mercury on the street and bring it inside their homes where indoor vapors may pose a health hazard,” said Dr. Ori Tzvieli, the County’s health officer. Dr. Tzvieli added that while the health risk posed by exposure to mercury from this release is low, it’s important for the community to be informed of any potential health risks and take appropriate actions. CCH issued a health advisory to the community earlier this evening.

Initially, the mercury release was thought to be contained to the area immediately outside the train station. But after examining the five-block route taken by the city of Martinez garbage truck today, Contra Costa Health’s hazmat team and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified small amounts of mercury in the roadway, primarily on Marina Vista and Alhambra avenues and Berrellesa Street (see attached map for streets along the route).

Sections of these streets will be temporarily closed over the next several days while cleanup takes place: Marina Vista Avenue between the station and Alhambra Avenue; Alhambra from Marina Vista to Buckley Street; Buckley from Alhambra to Berrellesa Street; Berrellesa from Buckley north to the Martinez City Public Works yard.

The train station has been closed since mid-afternoon on Monday after ambulance paramedics from Confire at the site, who were there for another matter, saw mercury on the ground.

Mercury has also been detected inside the train station itself. Anyone at the Amtrak station Monday or anyone who walked along the affected streets that thinks they may have stepped in mercury should take precautions to avoid contact with it. Shoes or clothes that have touched mercury should be double bagged and sealed shut and placed outside.

LATEST:

Hazmat Crews Cleaning Up Mercury on Martinez Streets,

Including Near Rankin Park

After receiving a call from a resident this morning, our hazmat team identified an additional location in Martinez contaminated with mercury – this one near Rankin Park where Buckley Street hits a dead end. The team immediately conducted cleanup operations at this location after confirming the presence of mercury in the street. We did a visual inspection in the park itself and did not find any evidence of mercury in the park.

Contra Costa Health spoke with the City of Martinez maintenance team and determined that the same garbage truck that collected trash at the Amtrak Station also serviced this location near Rankin Park on Monday, May 8. We have updated the map showing the route the garbage truck took after emptying the contaminated trashcan at the Amtrak station.

Hazmat cleanup crews are currently in the process of decontaminating parts of streets in the Martinez downtown area where mercury has been seen. We estimate the cleanup will take 1-2 days. There will be rolling street closures throughout the day today and possibly into tomorrow as the cleanup work is being done.

The Amtrak station remains closed and we don’t have an estimate for when it will reopen.

Anyone at the Amtrak station Monday or anyone who walked along the affected streets that thinks they may have stepped in mercury should take precautions to avoid contact with it. Shoes or clothes that have touched mercury should be double bagged and sealed shut and placed outside. Call our Hazmat Program at 925-655- 3200 during regular business hours for further handling instructions

5 COMMENTS

  1. And to think we were given a bottle of mercury to play with in chemistry class in high school (around 1990). No gloves, no precautions. “Have fun with it, kids!” I’m not going as far as to say we turned out OK, though.

  2. We used to roll mercury around in our hands and use it to coat nickels and make them temporarily shiny. Good times…

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