- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2005

Students returned yesterday to Cardozo High School in Northwest for the first time since the building was closed in early March for a series of mercury-spill cleanups.

Having spent the last nine school days at the University of the District of Columbia, most of the students seemed glad to be back.

“UDC was good, but it can’t compare to Cardozo,” said junior Daniel David, 17. “I’m just so happy because Cardozo students love Cardozo.”

City school officials closed Cardozo indefinitely March 11 after hazardous materials crews found mercury, acids and other chemicals improperly stored in classrooms. The school already had been closed since March 6 after the third mercury spill in less than two weeks was found inside the building.Students missed all or part of six days of school because of the three spills.

Buses began transporting Cardozo students to UDC on March 8.

“I’m glad we are back, because we learn better here,” said junior Stone Brown, 17.

Hazardous materials crews from the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday completed the final cleanup and testing, which included screening of hundreds of student lockers. School officials on Saturday gave community residents a tour of the school.

Hazardous materials were supposed to be removed from all city schools after an intentional mercury spill in October 2003 at Ballou Senior High School in Southeast that cost the District $1 million.

Mercury has been found at Cardozo three times in the past month — on Feb. 23, March 2 and March 6. It is not clear whether the March 2 and March 6 findings were new or had been overlooked by crews who cleaned the school after the first spill.

Police have charged three students in the Feb. 23 spill. They reportedly have told police they obtained the mercury from the school’s science laboratory.

School officials at first denied the reports, saying all mercury had been removed from all schools after the Ballou spill.

But federal officials found six containers of hazardous materials, including mercury, in three of the school’s science labs. EPA officials said they also recovered nine mercury thermometers and several mercury thermostats.

Spreading mercury “in and of itself was ignorant,” said Dani Hillard, 15, a sophomore at Cardozo. “But if you stop and think about it, they got it from the school. If there is mercury in this school, you have to see that is tempting fate.”

Final costs for the Cardozo cleanups will be released today, EPA officials said.

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