13 INVESTIGATES: Final Mercury Spill Price - WVTM-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Birmingham, AL

13 INVESTIGATES: Final Mercury Spill Price

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BIRMINGHAM, AL - On March 9, 2012, Putnam Middle School students were set to get out for spring break. In a classroom some sixth graders got their hands on some liquid mercury.

The mess that caused and the cleanup it would require has cost the taxpayer a pretty penny.

After more than a year and a half of digging we finally know the total price tag.

The Birmingham School System hired the company HEPACO to handle cleanup on school property.

Their price was $517,246.

The school system also spent $8,000 to replace students' clothes and shoes.

Maintenance Department costs totaled $13,122.

Dozens of students underwent urine testing to rule out chemical contamination.

The School System wrote the Jefferson County Health Department a check of $16,981 dollars for those tests.

Finally, there was the Environmental Protection Agency's role in the mercury spill aftermath.

Their teams screened multiple homes for mercury, including one where the floor had to be completely replaced.

The EPA's total cost was $339,211 dollars.

So the final tally for all the costs associated with the Putnam Middle School mercury spill stands at $894,560 dollars.

Who will foot that hefty bill?

The taxpayer.

The Birmingham School System filed a claim with the state's insurance company, but was denied.

In a letter to the school system, the Alabama Division of Risk Management stated the insurance policy, “does not insure against loss, damage, costs or expenses in connection with any kind or description of seepage and/or contamination, direct or indirect, arising from any cause whatsoever."

Finally, we asked the Birmingham school system if the spill had prompted any improved chemical safeguards.

They provided us with a list of six safety procedures.  

Among them are 'annual chemical audits at each school' and 'random chemical security checks throughout the year'.

We also asked the Superintendent's office if they held anyone accountable for the costly mercury spill.

We were told the Putnam Middle School principal was transferred to another school.
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