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Classes Resume at Agua Fria High School Following Mercury Spill / School Officials Declare it Safe for Campus Operations to Resume

Release Date: 02/19/2009
Contact Information: Margot Perez-Sullivan, 415.947.4149

JOINT NEWS RELEASE ISSUED BY: Agua Fria Unified School District and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

SAN FRANCISCO – Following a temporary school closure, classes resumed today at Agua Fria High School after school district officials declared it was safe.

The Avondale Fire Department, Avondale Police Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Arizona’s Department of Environmental Quality have been working together to investigate and assess mercury exposure that may have resulted from a February 12 mercury spill at Agua Fria High School in Avondale, Ariz.

Emergency responders surveyed the campus and found classrooms with elevated levels of mercury. Mercury was also found in a few outdoor locations. Emergency responders cleaned up or restricted student access to these areas.

The Agua Fria Unified School District contacted students in areas impacted by the spill. Over the past four days, students have brought their clothing, shoes and belongings worn last Thursday to the school for mercury screening. Students who have been contacted by the school about this matter are urged to bring the clothing, shoes and belongings worn or carried on Thursday, February 12, to school tomorrow in a plastic bag for mercury screening.

The EPA is conducting screenings of these belongings. Mercury screenings are also being conducted in homes of students whose belongings are contaminated with mercury. These screenings determine whether mercury contamination is present at levels that may be harmful.

Federal, state and local officials will continue to work together with school officials to ensure that students and faculty are protected.

Elemental mercury is a shiny, silvery metal that is liquid at room temperature. It’s often found in thermometers, barometers, thermostats, electrical switches, and science labs. When dropped, it can break into smaller droplets that can migrate into cracks and crevices, and become attached to shoes, clothing or skin.

For more information on mercury spills and potential health impacts, please visit:

If you are a member of the media seeking further information, please contact any of the following contacts:

Lexi Cunningham, Assistant Superintendent, Agua Fria Unified School District, (623) 932-7116.

EPA Media Contact Margot Perez-Sullivan, (415) 990-1176,

Arizona Department of Health Services Media Contact, Laura Oxley, (602) 542-1094,

Parents may call the Arizona Department of Health Services at 1-(800) 367-6412 if they have particular questions about the response to this incident.