Friday night, school officials call it an accident. They say a third-grader found the mercury in a friend's tool shed. She brought it to school out of curiousity, and the risk caused a day-long lockdown in the elementary school gym.
It all began on the bus, when a third grader brought a tiny capsule of mercury on abord. School officials say it was just a teaspoon, and therefore not a risk to anyone's health, but the vapors are a risk to the environment.
The students brought the mercury inside the school and a teacher found it in the hallway. They acted quickly, calling in the health department and the Environment Protection Agency. All 230 students were corralled in the school gym, along with about 24 middle and high school students who were exposed when on board the bus.
Clair Dean, Litchfield Schools Superintendent, says they made it into a fun day for students. "They ate lunch, they watched movies, as we followed all the procedures for decontamination."
They also called parents, who brought each student a change of clothes. Many of them waited hours until their children were decontaminated. Decontamination meant checking everyone and their clothes for mercury levels. Many students had to leave their shoes and clothes behind, but everyone left safely by about 4 p.m.
Dean says, "With all of the crisis plans we had...there's nothing about mercury." She says, considering, everything went very well, and she calls it a lesson learned.
The two students who first found the mercury were blood-tested as a precaution. Hazmat teams cleaned the bus, and officials also took care to clean the school properly.