During an otherwise uneventful Sunday, dozens of people in Houston, Texas were exposed to mercury that somehow was spilled at a trio of locations in the city. According to Houston city officials, potentially dangerous mercury was discovered at three locations in the community. Mercury was discovered outside a Walmart, a Sonic Drive-In, and a gas station. The three sites are in relatively close proximity to one another. According to officials, the presence of mercury on the ground at these locations prompted what has been called a “massive response.”
Very early Monday morning, law enforcement officials arrested a 19-year old man named Christopher Lee Melder. According to the FBI, Melder stole mercury from some type of facility he burglarized and then dumped it on the ground at the trio of locations identified a moment ago. The man’s motivation for causing the spills has not yet been made public. It is not known whether the man taken into custody is affiliated with some type of group.
According to the Houston Fire Department Chief, the situation was described as “under control” by Sunday evening. He defined “under control” as meaning the areas where the spills occurred had been cordoned off and citizens were not permitted access to those zones. In addition, crews were at work cleaning up the mercury. When asked when the mercury spill cleanup would be completed, the Fire Chief indicated there was not set timetable for the completion of that process.
Officials were alerted to the presence of mercury when a call came into 911. The caller reported seeing a “white liquid” on the ground, which investigator confirmed was mercury.
Officials ordered an evacuation of the areas around the three Houston mercury spills. In addition, somewhere between 30 to 60 people were asked to undergo decontamination showers. Evidently the request for these individuals to submit to decontamination was a precautionary measure. There was no immediate indication that anyone had been directly contaminated by dangerous mercury.
With that said, one pregnant woman who was near one of the spills was taken to an area hospital. Emergency personnel stressed that she was transported to the medical center as a precaution.
There is one unconfirmed report that a person checked into a Harris County hospital on Friday night claiming that he or she was exposed to mercury. No more information currently has been made available as to where or how this individual may have been exposed to mercury. As of Monday, the incident regarding the person checking into a hospital had not been confirmed nor had the individual been located by investigators.
Investigators from federal, state, and local agencies are at the scenes of the spills. In addition to ensuring that containment and cleanup effectively is accomplished, investigators are working to ascertain whether or not the spills were intentional. Houston area residents are reminded to be vigilant in their awareness of “things that seem out of the ordinary” in the community, like unusual substances on the ground or in other places.
Mercury exists in three forms, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mercury is the only metallic element that exists in liquid form at “room temperature” conditions. Indeed, Mercury turns to liquid at -37 degrees Fahrenheit.
As noted, mercury is a toxic substance. Mercury can be absorbed through the skin. Mercury vapors that can be given off even in conditions like those prevailing in regard to the Houston mercury spill can be inhaled. With that said, at this time officials maintain that the Houston mercury spill being out of doors and not in significant quantities are not likely to have harmed passersby.
The reality is that people can be exposed to toxic substances of different types, including when patronizing businesses of different types. Businesses have a legal obligation exercise reasonable care to protect people from exposure to dangerous substances. If you or a loved one has been exposed to some type of dangerous substance at a business or other location, you need to protect your health as well as your legal rights. A personal injury lawyer from The Doan Law Firm can assist you in ascertaining your rights and what can be done to protect them. You can reach a personal injury lawyer from this nationwide law firm by calling (800) 349-0000 any time of the day or night. There is no charge for an initial consultation and case evaluation. The Doan Law Firm never charges an attorney fee unless you win your case.