Local News

Parents Meet With School Officials To Discuss Stolen Mercury

Posted October 21, 2005

— School administrators held a meeting Thursday night with parents after about a half-pound of stolen mercury led to the shutting down of South Granville High School for about a week.

Two students admitted to stealing the substance from a science lab, and one student poured some of the heavy metal down a hole in his back yard.

Stacy Carnell said the meeting helped alleviate his concerns about his children’s exposure to the heavy metal.

"I'm not worried about my children getting sick," he said. "Hopefully, they will find out what exactly happened. But right now, my kids are safe and others' kids are safe. That's all that matters."

But other parents have questions about safety measures school officials took before the incident and what they plan to do now.

"Was this chemical element left unlocked?" parent Sharon Deane asked.

Creedmoor Police Chief Ted Pollard said earlier that the mercury had been left in an unlocked locker at school.

Another parent said she was concerned because parents were not given a chance to voice their concerns during the meeting.

"I feel like we have been shortchanged," Deborah Dunn said.

School leaders said they were concerned about making sure the students and faculty were not shortchanged when it comes to safety.

South Granville, which has been closed since Tuesday, will not reopen until Monday as monitoring and cleanup continue.

More than a dozen rooms had mercury vapor levels that exceeded federal EPA guidelines, but more rooms were found to be safe, said state toxicologist Luanne Williams. Williams said she does not expect any long-term affects on health.

"We have removed rugs. We have removed mops and vacuum cleaners. And we have monitored every room more than once," she said.

Schools officials said they plan to review the use of mercury and other harmful substances in schools. They also said the district was developing a plan to make up the missed school days.

Williams said she plans to meet with county and possibly state officials about getting the silvery substance out of classrooms and laboratories "so that this doesn't happen again."

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