City / County Digest


May 26, 2007

Baltimore: Waverly

Mercury spill forces school evacuation

Waverly Elementary/Middle School in North Baltimore was forced to close early yesterday after students ripped thermostats off the walls and exposed 30 seventh- and eighth-graders and four adults to mercury, a city Fire Department spokesman said.

No injuries were reported, but firefighters had to decontaminate the students and adults who came in contact with mercury, herding them into a tractor-trailer-size unit, taking off their clothing and washing them down in showers.

More than 45 city firefighters and emergency crews from the Maryland Department of the Environment were at the school from the first call about 11 a.m. until after 5 p.m.

Chief Kevin Cartwright, a Fire Department spokesman, said three students removed the thermostats from classrooms, "broke them open and exposed the mercury." Cartwright said the students stomped on the thermostats to break them.

The spokesman said some students played with the mercury, passed it around and in some cases threw it at other students. Contact with mercury can cause rashes; exposure to the heavy metal also can cause liver damage. Cartwright said 30 students, three teachers and one custodian were contaminated.

Schools spokesman J. Keith Scroggins said mercury readings in the atmosphere near where the young students were playing were high and there was evidence of mercury contamination on surfaces as well. All students were dismissed about 12:30 p.m. because authorities did not want food served at lunch due to the mercury readings.

Vanessa Pyatt, a school system spokeswoman, said three students were taken into police custody.

Staff and wire reports


: Pratt Library

Broadway branch to close today

The Broadway branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library system is set to close today in anticipation of the Orleans branch scheduled to open this summer. The Broadway at 301 N. Broadway will be replaced by the new branch at 1303 Orleans St. in mid-August. Officials encourage patrons to visit the central library at 400 Cathedral St. and the Southeast Anchor branch at 3601 Eastern Ave. The Pratt Bookmobile will also be visiting the Broadway location Wednesdays and Fridays.

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