Monday, December 23, 2019

More abandoned labs causing problems

Via Twitter, this rather distressing story: (nb link has annoying autoplay) 
HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It appears now the mercury spill that was first noticed in a Walmart parking lot in west Houston is now widespread, affecting more locations. We now know that law enforcement officials believe suspect Christopher Melder broke into the former Geochem building in the 1400 block of Brittmoore sometime during Dec. 13. 
It is believed the 19-year-old father of two children stole 11 pounds of mercury and put it in his backpack. Law enforcement sources said he then tried to sell the mercury in small batches for $20 each. He managed to sell it twice. 
Around 60 people were decontaminated as a precaution following the discovery of the heavy metal mercury at a west Houston shopping center located in the area of Westview Drive and West Sam Houston Parkway. 
Sources added he was also playing with the mercury, which is how it ended up in the Walmart parking lot, near the Sonic, and now, at the McDonald's and bathrooms inside the Walmart. Authorities also believe it may have made its way into a Bucky's convenience store in the area.
You really wonder how much this kid had to search through the building before he found the mercury...

5 comments:

  1. Usually Hg in labs is stored in clear glass bottles. The silvery appearance makes it stand out. The volume of 11 lb. Hg is ~370 mL.

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  2. I wonder what else was lying around there though...

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  3. "he was also playing with the mercury" - clearly what science classes the fellow took in school did not take.

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    1. I had a few grad school classmates whose high school chemistry teachers poured mercury on desks for kids to play with as recently as the 1990s.

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    2. My physics teacher (late 80's) had pools of mercury in his classroom (he'd been around my school for 30? years). He got kind of cranky near the end of his career and I wonder if mercury exposure (8 h/d, 5d/week to Hg vapor for a long time) could have contributed.

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