Tests planned for workers after mercury spill

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - East Lansing has arranged for wastewater treatment plant employees to be tested for mercury poisoning after a November spill was disclosed last week.

The city is investigating how the spill occurred and why it wasn’t reported for four months, the Lansing State Journal reported (http://on.lsj.com/1nWw0DJ ). Public Works Director Todd Sneathen said he interviewed workers Monday and arranged for as many as 16 of them to be tested.

“Anybody who wants to can make an appointment and go get the testing,” Sneathen said.

A tip made by an anonymous caller to a state pollution-reporting line said at least 1.5 pounds of mercury spilled, according to Kim Sakowski of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The caller reported that some traces of mercury still might be in the maintenance department of the treatment plant.

Sneathen said the city learned of the spill on Thursday when a group of plant workers came forward and requested a meeting. Workers had used a vacuum to clean up the spill. It’s not known whether any exposure to mercury caused health problems.

Jim Wilson, Ingham County’s environmental health director, said officials found high levels of mercury inside the vacuum. Follow-up testing Monday at the wastewater treatment plant identified remnants of the heavy metal but nothing hazardous to workers, Wilson said.

“The really important thing is the exposure that’s left is real low,” Wilson said.

According to officials, it’s not known how exactly how much time passed between the spill and the cleanup. East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett has characterized the incident as “very concerning” and said people should have been alerted sooner.

“There’s clearly a failure where an incident like that goes unreported for so long,” he said.

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Information from: Lansing State Journal, http://www.lansingstatejournal.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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