- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 24, 2005

D.C. Public Schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey issued a protocol yesterday for removing potentially dangerous chemicals from schools, after a series of mercury contaminations and the revelation that a previous removal effort was incomplete.

The nine-page protocol lists more than 200 chemicals including mercury, chlorine, chloroform, ether, hexyl alcohol and nicotine. The protocol was issued to the principals of each of the city’s roughly 150 public schools. The school system’s Hazmat Removal Team, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services and the American Association for the Advancement of Science helped create the protocol and will handle the removal and disposal of the materials.

“Based on the realization that hazardous materials still exist in our schools, I have issued a new directive,” Mr. Janey said.

He said the sweep of schools began earlier this week and will take about two or three weeks.

School administrators ordered all potentially hazardous materials removed after an October 2003 mercury spill at Ballou High School in Southeast. The incident closed the building for more than a month, and cleanup cost at least $1 million. A student who was charged in the case had taken the mercury from a science lab.

Mr. Janey became superintendent about 10 months after the initial order. He and other administrators thought all potentially hazardous materials had been removed.

However, investigations into the recent mercury incidents at Cardozo High School and Hardy Middle School revealed that potentially hazardous materials were still inside schools.

The March 7 spill at Hardy, at 1819 35th St. NW, occurred when a thermometer was broken accidentally in a science room, authorities said. The students responsible for the first of three discoveries at Cardozo said they took the mercury from a science lab inside the school, at 1300 Clifton St. NW.

Police have charged three students in connection with the contamination.

“This time we will take all necessary steps to prevent further loss of instructional time due to incidents such as those at Cardozo and Hardy,” Mr. Janey said.

Cardozo reopened Monday. The school was closed for most of three weeks so Environmental Protection Agency crews could remove the mercury.

Mercury was first found to be placed at Cardozo on Feb. 23. The school briefly reopened March 2 before six more BB-sized drops were found on a third-floor stairwell. At least 50 students’ shoes tested positive for mercury contamination that day.

Mercury was found a third time at Cardozo on March 6, but it was not clear whether the placement was new or overlooked by crews cleaning the first spill.

Cardozo students were bused to the University of the District of Columbia for classes from March 8 to Monday, while crews cleared the school.

School officials closed Cardozo indefinitely March 11 after crews found six containers of potentially 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.

School officials at first denied reports that mercury was still inside Cardozo, saying it had been removed from all schools after the Ballou spill.

Mr. Janey said materials discovered inside the school included unsecured chemicals, some of them unlabeled, that were catalyzed, decomposed or aged beyond their shelf life and could become unstable.

The cleanup and testing, which included the screening of hundreds of student lockers, was completed March 18. The final costs associated with the incidents at Cardozo have not been announced.

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