Friday, September 8, 2017

Mercury on Houston shores?

I've been really busy this week, so I haven't had time to write about the Arkema situation (especially now that it has been mostly resolved). But I did want to note this little article from The New York Times about some mercury that washed up on a Houston beach: 
CHANNELVIEW, Texas — Public health officials are investigating a case of dangerous liquid mercury that appears to have washed or blown ashore here, east of Houston, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. 
Bobby Griffin found the clusters of shiny silver mercury globules scattered across his San Jacinto riverfront property on Tuesday, a few hundred yards from the San Jacinto Waste Pits, a Superfund site that was inundated during last week’s storm. 
Harvey cut a path through industrial corridors, raising concerns about pollution and runoff. Public health officials are especially concerned about flooding at highly contaminated Superfund sites, designated by the federal government for clean up... 
...The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences says that mercury is extremely dangerous, “with a few drops generating enough fumes to contaminate the air in a room.” It is less dangerous outside, but it poses a hazard if people pick it up or stand near it. 
Mr. Griffin, who earned a living renting out mobile homes on his land until the storm wrecked them all, first noticed a spray of silvery dots in the wet sand that clung to his bare toes on Tuesday. 
He called out for a New York Times reporter who happened to be on his property, looking for toxic contamination left behind after the storm, to come over.
Mr. Griffin, 57, picked up one cluster with his knife, tipped it into the palm of his left hand and watched it dance, split into pieces and come back together. 
“It’s all over here,” Mr. Griffin said, pointing to cluster after cluster. He said he had not seen the material before the storm came....
That doesn't sound like a good situation... time to get out the elemental sulfur?


  1. Ask the Exxon refinery at Baytown if they have a few spare tons of sulfur. The refinery here on Delaware has tanks of molten sulfur from their operation (we had one break open years ago -- between the burning bushes and brimstone it looked positively biblical :-).

  2. I'll bet the roiling waters also brought PCB-laden sediment to the surface. Time to warm up the Soxhlets and GCs with electron capture detectors.

  3. In reference to that Arkema article: I love that the general public thinks dust masks can protect you from hazaradous fumes and/or airborne virus/bacteria.

    1. Why would you "love the fact that the general public thinks dust masks can protect you from hazaradous fumes and/or airborne virus/bacteria."?? Seems like an odd thing to be happy about. You also like Hurricanes causing mass destruction as well?

    2. I am gonna take a stab in the dark here and say Anon 12:09 was not being literal, but applying the figure of speech to convey their surprise and disappointment at a state of affairs.

    3. Well I had to explain to someone with a MSc in chemistry the exact same (powder mask does nothing to protect you from iodomethane vapours) so yeah... Major gaps in education when it comes to safety/PPE sometimes.

  4. Understood there are major gaps in education, just surprised the verbiage used was that someone loves the fact that others might not be covered.

  5. I am anon 12:09: why so serious anons? Yes, anon 1:45pm was correct; amusing to see a news source posting pictures of someone using improper PPE in such an instance and likely others see this and will think it is safe....

    Amusing because most news outlets these days spread such terrible knowledge and/or downright lies and most people carry on without questioning what they see. Graduate school turned me into a pessimistic a-hole so there's that as well...