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  • Mercury Haz Mat??

    A quick question

    I am a student at Oklahoma State University, I was told by a classmate of a mercury spill in which his departments hazmat team used shop vacs to suck up the spilled mercury then, they used the county's incinerator to burn the mercury and the shop vacs.
    I pose this question, How is this possible?
    As a student of chemistry, I know that mercury is one of the most toxic elements, is a liquid, and is easily absorbed. If this is true then is it possible to suck mercury off of the highway then pollute the atmosphere with toxic mercury which through precipitation would make its way into the ground and local water systems. If you have any experience with this type of incident or want to give me your 2 cents on the subject if it is at all possible please be sure to let me know. In my honest and professional opinion and knowledge of mercury I think that the source of this fairy tale does not know what the hell he is talking about. Just a thought.

    Thanks
    Kevin Wiseman

  • #2
    Well you are right..Whomever told this story to you is a BS artist. I mean that story is insane...You better break out the old three-quarters because the ****s gettin deep

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    • #3
      Kevin---
      I think you are right about "the source of this fairy tale". This person was probably trying to impress people, and little does this person know that their credibility is now all shot to hell. This person seems to be one of the people that gives the fire service a bad name.
      And to answer your question I have never been at the scene of a mercury spill but I don't think that's the way it is cleaned up.

      ------------------
      The statements above are my own opinions

      FF Greg Grudzinski
      Oaklyn Fire Dept.
      Station 18-3

      Comment


      • #4
        sorry double post!

        [This message has been edited by ENGINE18-3 (edited 01-25-2001).]

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        • #5
          Typically mercury spills are cleaned up by absorbing the spill into zinc or copper to form an amalgam. The amalgam is then disposed of in an approved manner. I have never heard of vacuuming mercury using a shop vac.

          ------------------
          Shawn M. Cecula
          Captain
          Lewiston Fire Co. No. 2

          Comment


          • #6
            When i worked in a hospital I had to help clean up a mercury spill. A patient pulled the wall-mounted blood pressure meter off the wall, and it smashed. We were told to use two index cards to pick up the drops and put them in a cup. Then the cup and the remains of the bp meter were double-bagged, labeled, and put in the basement for disposal by an outside agency of some sort. I think we threw the contaminated bedsheets in the normal laundry. Not certain though. Then we mopped the floor and dumped the water. One drop rolled off the bed and laned on my hand, then hit the floor. I stopped what i was doing and scrubbed. Any problems with doing it that way?

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            • #7
              The vacuum thing is not a myth- The US Navy Fire Dept. at NAWC Warminster, Pa. had vacuum cleaners listed in the inventory for mercury clean-up kits on board the haz-mat trailer. Though I never got involved in a mercury haz-mat when I worked there, I did inventory the trailer, and they were there. As for incinerating the mercury, you got me??

              ------------------
              "Loyalty above all else, except honor."

              Comment


              • #8
                Have to agree with the others. Looks like your classmate was just trying to blow smoke by embelishing his story. The reportable quantity (RQ) for mercury is 1 lb, and per SARA Sec. 304, any spill larger than the RQ would have to be reported to the LEPC and the state emergency response commission. Also the National Response Center (NRC) has to be notified. So if the spill was big enough to need shop vacs, then you can bet they didn't just toss them into the local incinerator...

                ------------------
                Donald M. Street
                Volunteer Captain
                Maryland City VFD
                Anne Arundel Co. 27
                Laurel, MD

                Comment


                • #9
                  I've used vacuum pumps to clean up mercury too, the container has a plastic bag insert that collects the mercury. As far as disposal, I don't see why it might not be incinerated, plenty of toxic waste is burned by high temp incinerators with scrubbers, etc.. As far as a shop vac, the biggest concern is when mercury is vaporized and you breathe it. A shop vac generally has an exhaust with some sort of filter, but not sure if it would be sufficient for mercury. I've used the absorbent kits too, they worked with limited success.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I am not disagreeing that vacuums are used in cleaning up mercury. Most of the mercurey spill kits on the market have a hand vacuum pump that sucks the mercury into a plastic container. That container then has some zinc powder dumped into it and the mercury is rendered relatively harmless. I dont know that it is a good idea to use anything other than a vacuum pump similar to the ones in most ambulances to clean up mercury.

                    College buff, the only real problem with doing it that way is the fact that the mercury came in contact with your hand. Should be wearing gloves. Latex exam gloves would work as long as there isnt a big risk of something puncturing the glove.

                    Army- Were they large shop vacs or smaller low power vacuums? I wonder if they were special for mercury clean up. Did they handle alot of mercury at the base where you worked?


                    ------------------
                    Shawn M. Cecula
                    Captain
                    Lewiston Fire Co. No. 2

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