Cardozo Is Closed Again; Third Mercury Incident in 12 Days Hits School

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 7, 2005 | Go to article overview

Cardozo Is Closed Again; Third Mercury Incident in 12 Days Hits School


Byline: Amy Doolittle, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Today's classes have been canceled at Cardozo High School after officials found traces of mercury in the building - the third such incident in 12 days.

The chemical was found a day after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified the building, at 1300 Clifton Place NW, safe to reopen after the previous incident. Two separate spills on Feb. 23 and Wednesday closed the Northwest school for nine days.

Alan Etter, spokesman for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, said the discovery of more mercury yesterday means the D.C. Health Department and the EPA will again take over the cleanup of the site.

The mercury was found yesterday in the school basement by a contractor cleaning up in preparation for today's scheduled opening. About 17 cleaning-crew members were tested for exposure, and one's shoes tested positive.

In addition to the droplets in the basement, firefighters found significant levels of mercury vapor, though not as high as the levels recorded last week when the school was closed for the second time in seven days, Mr. Etter said.

Schools Superintendent Clifford Janey, who said he had been given full assurance that the school was free of mercury, said he is "deeply disappointed."

Cardozo students had missed three days of school before today's cancellation, and school officials yesterday said the missed time will be made up.

School officials are working with the EPA and the Health Department "to make sure the cleanup is done as expeditiously as possible," said Leonie Campbell, spokeswoman for District of Columbia Public Schools.

"Everyone is surprised and disappointed," she said. "We want the students to get the education they deserve. We certainly hope the situation will be resolved quickly."On Feb. 23, mercury was found in four locations at Cardozo - two on the basement level, where students enter the building, and two more on the first floor.

One week later, six more BB-sized drops of mercury were found on a third-floor stairwell. At least 50 students' shoes tested positive for mercury that day.

Two students are charged with spilling the mercury on Feb. 23.

Principal Reginald Ballard said he believes the mercury found at the school Wednesday was left over from the Feb. …

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