The New Ulm Public Safety Department and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency have closed of a residential road after mercury was discovered in a refuse container by a local waste hauler in the city of New Ulm, in Brown County, Minnesota, on Tuesday 7 February 2017. Around two gallons (7.5 litres) of the metal in an inner container is thought to have been placed in the refuse by a homeowner, with about half of this subsequently leaking into the outer container. The agencies are warming the road may be closed for several days while all the material is removed from the refuse container and waste contractor's vehicle and a search is carried out of nearby properties and drainage systems for any escaped material.
A specialist hazmat team removing mercury from a residential stret in New Ulm, Minnesota. Fritz Busch/The Journal.
Mercury is a highly potent neurotoxin, and can cause a variety of other health and developmental problems in children; it is considered to be particularly harmful to infants and foetuses. The fumes are persistent in the atmosphere and can travel long distances, which places those not directly involved in mercury-using processes at risk, although it is hoped that the current low temperatures in Minnesota will have prevented the evaporation of much mercury in New Ulm.
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