Health Advisory Lifted After Weeklong Mercury Cleanup in Martinez
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
Contra Costa Health (CCH) today lifted its health advisory for downtown Martinez after hazardous materials crews completed a cleanup of spilled mercury that contaminated streets and a train station.
The advisory, issued May 9, asked the public to avoid walking in the street along a five-block stretch of the city, including parts of Marina Vista and Alhambra avenues, and Buckley and Berrellesa streets, after trace amounts of the toxic material were discovered in the public right-of-way late that afternoon.
"At no point did we detect enough mercury on city streets to cause an immediate health concern. The primary concern was reducing the risk of people tracking it inside, where over time it could cause health issues," said Dr. Ori Tzvieli, Contra Costa County's health officer. "We realize the work has been disruptive to the community and appreciate the partnership of the City of Martinez as we worked to keep people informed about our progress."
The investigation of the spill began Monday, May 8, when an ambulance responding to an unrelated emergency call reported the substance in the parking lot of the Martinez Amtrak station, 601 Marina Vista. A CCH hazardous materials team responded and found a substantial quantity of mercury on the ground.
Health officials believe the mercury was placed in a garbage can in the station parking lot and, on May 8, removed by a city crew emptying trash cans along a route between the lot and the city yard off Buckley. Investigators on May 9 found traces of mercury that dripped from the truck along the city crew's route, prompting the health advisory.
Cleanup crews from CCH, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a private contractor have worked over the past week to neutralize and remove all detectable mercury from more than 4,000 feet of roads along the city maintenance truck's route, an area that eventually extended to locations including in front of Rankin Park and a parking lot in the Martinez Marina. Cleanup at the Amtrak station, which is now open again, was completed over the weekend.
The source of the mercury remains under investigation by law enforcement. Anyone with information about the dumping of the mercury at the Amtrak station is encouraged to contact the Martinez Police Department's tip line at 925-372-3440.
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