Hazmat Level 1 declared after mercury spill at Detroit water treatment plant


Update: The cause of the mercury spill was a dropped thermometer. The water was not affected, officials said.  

A hazardous materials team and firefighters were called to Detroit’s water treatment plant this morning after a mercury spill.

About a dozen firefighters arrived at the plant around 8:30 a.m., declaring a HAZMAT Level 1, which means only a slight hazard exists.

The first arriving firefighters said the spill was small.
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What caused the leak wasn’t immediately known, but something as minor as a thermometer breaking could prompt a HAZMAT call.

At 10 a.m., officials told Motor City Muckraker that the water supply was not in danger.

Breathing mercury vapors can cause health problems, such as seizures, kidney damage, learning and behavioral disorders and mood changes.

Small leaks are usually manageable without the intervention of an environmental agency, but risks are still present.

“Any amount of mercury spilled indoors can be hazardous,” according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. “The more mercury is spilled, the more its vapor will build up in the air and the more hazardous it will be.”

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

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