Mercury spill closes portions of Cincinnati VA Medical Center

Mercury spill closes portions of Cincinnati VA Medical Center
(File photo)

Cincinnati Enquirer - An environmental response team responded to the Cincinnati VA Medical Center last week after mercury leaked out of an old pipe that was moved during construction.

During the evening of Nov. 1, Engineering Service personnel were removing a section of non-functioning drain piping out of an active construction area on the first floor, VA officials said. During the removal of the pipe, liquid spilled out onto the floor in the construction area.

It was determined to be mercury, officials said.

The drain pipe, which was considered to be a "dead pipe" was not connected to any water or drainage systems within the Medical Center.

The VA medical center's department of Industrial Hygiene and Safety was contacted the next morning and determined that an outside commercial environmental response team needed to come on site and evaluate the situation further.  
The outside environmental firm advised IH&S to close off specific areas in the hospital for testing and as a precaution, officials said. Hallways around the spill site were closed off as an additional precaution. 
The Ohio EPA and the Cincinnati Health Department are also working with the VA for advisement and testing as well as a cleanup strategy. Officials said some sections of the hospital have been deemed safe and are scheduled to reopen.

Officials said there is minimal risk to veterans, employees and visitors.