Man in custody after Houston mercury spill sparks massive response

About 60 people were decontaminated after the silvery substance was found on the ground near roads and businesses


Jay R. Jordan
Houston Chronicle

HOUSTON — Federal authorities have taken a man into custody as they investigate if a west Houston mercury spill was intentional, the FBI announced early Monday morning.

The man, who was not identified, has not been charged with a crime, but the FBI tweeted that he’s being questioned in Sunday’s mercury spill, which centered around the intersection of Westview Drive and the West Sam Houston Parkway. Up to 60 people were decontaminated after possible exposure to the mercury, can be dangerous when ingested or inhaled.

A mercury spill in west Houston sparked a massive emergency response on Sunday. Mercury can be dangerous when ingested or inhaled. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)
A mercury spill in west Houston sparked a massive emergency response on Sunday. Mercury can be dangerous when ingested or inhaled. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

Authorities cleared the scene overnight after an hours-long cleanup, according to Houston Fire Department spokesperson Abby Ramos.

However, officials with the Houston Health Department said that the mercury found Sunday posed an “extremely low” risk to the public, because trace amounts were found on the ground outside. A pregnant woman was the only person hospitalized during the cleanup, according to Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña. He added there was no risk to anyone outside the contaminated area.

An unidentified “concerned citizen” who works in the chemical industry reported a white silvery substance on the ground at 11:15 a.m. in the 10700 block of Westview near the parkway. Firefighters responded and found the chemical outside the nearby Walmart, Sonic Drive-In and a Shell gas station.

It’s unclear how long the mercury had been on the ground or how it got there, said Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Matt Slinkard. He said the police investigation will focus on whether the exposure was intentional or accidental.

Reporters Julian Gill, Gwendolyn Wu and Jordan Blum contributed to this report.

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©2019 the Houston Chronicle

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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