- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2005

Cardozo High School students today will be bused to the University of the District of Columbia for classes, after officials shut down their school to give crews more time to get rid of the mercury found there for the third time in less than two weeks.

Cardozo will hold classes at UDC in Northwest as long as needed, said Roxanne Evans, a city schools spokeswoman. Cleanup and testing are expected to take as many as five days, officials said.

The high school, at 1300 Clifton St. NW, will remain closed until the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deems that the building is safe for students, faculty and staff.

“We’re hoping it won’t be extended,” Ms. Evans said. “Our primary concern is the health of the students.”

Cardozo students have missed all or part of six days of school, mostly because of the spate of mercury discoveries. Two of the days were snow days.

Ms. Evans said yesterday officials are “looking at a number of options” to make up for lost instruction time, including “lengthening the school day a few moments.”

Yesterday, Marcos Aquino, a scene coordinator with the EPA, acknowledged that there is “a chance” that the mercury found Sunday was missed during last week’s cleanup. Officials found several droplets of mercury in a third-floor stairwell Wednesday. Two weeks ago, nearly 2 ounces were found in four spots in the building.

Last evening, police arrested a third suspect in the Feb. 23 mercury spill.

They charged a 16-year-old boy from Northwest with conspiracy to commit illegal dumping and dumping of hazardous materials.

A 16-year-old and a 15-year-old were charged earlier. The suspects’ names are being withheld because they are juveniles.

Mr. Aquino said because of the metal’s liquid properties, small amounts of it could have been missed when they slipped into cracks in the floor, the same way water would.

The latest mercury findings were so small that they were “almost too hard to see with the naked eye,” he said.

The EPA yesterday brought in more specialists and equipment to ensure that there are no further traces of mercury in the school.

During the next few days, EPA officials will use special vacuums and air tests to rid the school of mercury. Officials also will conduct manual walk-throughs with flashlights in hopes that the mercury will reflect the light and will be easier to find.

Meanwhile, hazardous-materials crews responded to a mercury spill last night at Hardy Middle School at 1819 35th St. NW, where, authorities said, a thermometer broke in a science room.

Seven students and two adults were in the classroom; only one, an adult, showed signs of elevated mercury exposure with “considerable contamination on his hands and clothes,” said Alan Etter, a spokesman for the D.C. fire department.

Peter DeAnna, an eighth-grader at Hardy, told WTTG-TV (Channel 5) that he and others were in the room after school hours. He said that another student handed him a thermometer and, he dropped it.

“Students cleaned most of it up and put it in a plastic bag,” Mr. Etter said.

The school in Georgetown will be closed today.

Authorities said last night that the thermometer might have been in an old incubator that was overlooked when mercury was banned from classrooms after a 2003 spill at Ballou High School in Southeast. Ballou was shut down for more than a month, and one student was charged in connection in that incident.

The latest mercury traces at Cardozo were found Sunday by a contractor who was cleaning the school for yesterday’s scheduled reopening.

On Feb. 23, nearly 2 ounces of mercury was found in four spots — two on the basement level, where students enter the building, and two on the first floor.

Exactly one week later, six BB-sized drops of mercury were found on a third-floor stairwell. Dozens of students’ shoes tested positive for mercury exposure that day.

Today, Cardozo students should report to Garnet-Patterson Middle School auditorium, at 2001 10th St. NW by 11:30 a.m. Teachers and custodial and cafeteria staff should report by 8:30 a.m.

All students and staff will be bused to and from UDC at the beginning and end of the day.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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