Elementary School Evacuated After Mercury Spill
Students were evacuated yesterday at Whitnel Elementary School due to a suspected mercury spill that occurred in a fifth-grade classroom. Reportedly, a student brought a small amount of mercury in a vial to school, and then dropped the vial on the classroom floor. The incident was completely unrelated to any subject or school-related activity or assignment. Four students were identified as having direct contact with the mercury. They underwent a decontamination process at the school conducted by Caldwell County Emergency Services personnel and the Lenoir Fire Department. The students were then transported to Caldwell Memorial Hospital and released after examination. The remaining 360 students enrolled at the school were evacuated to nearby Whitnel Central Baptist church, where parents were notified through an emergency phone messaging system to pick up their children. With the exception of 11 fifth-graders that were indirectly exposed to the mercury in the classroom, the school was completely evacuated by 12:30 pm. From the direction of the EPA), the 11 students remained on campus with their family members until released from school grounds at approximately 3:30 pm. According to Teague, this is the fourth case of a mercury spill in Caldwell County in the last year. Before students were evacuated to Whitnel Central Baptist, the students were moved from the primary building on campus to the gymnasium. To ready the campus for the EPA assessment, evacuation to the church began shortly before noon. The site is currently being assessed by EPA and official clean-up is underway.