Traces of mercury found in downtown Martinez after garbage truck spreads waste: Officials

Bay City News
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Traces of mercury found in downtown Martinez after spill: Officials
Contra Costa Health put out an advisory Tuesday night for areas of downtown Martinez near the Amtrak station where a mercury spill occurred on Monday.

MARTINEZ, Calif. -- Contra Costa Health put out an advisory Tuesday night for areas of downtown Martinez near the Amtrak station, where a mercury spill occurred on Monday.

Officials found "minor" mercury contamination in the street from Marina Vista Avenue, to Alhambra Avenue, to Buckley Street, to Berrellesa Street, they said at 8:20 p.m.

Authorities are advising that If residents must be in the area, to please stay on the sidewalk.

The mercury spill that closed the Amtrak station in Martinez on Monday was bigger than initially thought and may have spread to the platform, inside the train station, and into the street, officials from Contra Costa Health (CCH) said.

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Officials say mercury was first found in a garbage can outside the station. Now, the contamination has been found along the truck's route in downtown Martinez.

The station remained closed as of Tuesday and Amtrak is using the old train station a few blocks away at Ferry Street and Marina Vista Avenue.

CCH deputy director Matt Kaufmann said the county is bringing in a contractor later Tuesday to help with the cleanup. County officials initially estimate there was a pound to 1.5 pounds of mercury spilled.

"We have not confirmed that (amount)," Kaufmann told the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. "What we can say is we are able to monitor for mercury in the air, which is really the primary concern. What we have found is about 1,000 times less than it would be to be considered immediately dangerous to life and health."

Kaufman said CCH was advised of the spill by the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District around 3 p.m. Monday. The station was then closed.

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Kaufmann said CCH is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board to further assess the situation and do more monitoring.

There's no timetable to reopen the station and the origin of the mercury isn't yet known.

Kaufmann said anyone who was in the area Monday should check shoes and clothing. Anyone who thinks they may have tracked through the mercury should double-bag clothes and shoes, put them outside, and call the county hazardous materials team at (925) 655-3200.

He said people should not attempt to wash their clothes or put them in a washing machine, as that could spread contamination.

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