Emergency and HazMat teams were on the scene of the mercury spill at the Lake Post Office Monday morning. (courtesy photo)
By Pat Maurer
The Lake Post Office remained closed Tuesday morning after a package containing what now has been identified as mercury began leaking, Clare CCEMHSD (Clare County Emergency Services & Homeland Security Division) Director Jerry Becker said.
United States Post Office employees at the Lake Post Office in the Village contacted 911 around 9 am Monday and reported the spill, a Monday afternoon press release from Becker said. Garfield Township Fire Rescue and Emergency Medical Services were both immediately dispatched to the scene.
Employees reported they “had been sorting mail in the rear of the facility and loading it into wheeled carts for distribution in the back loading area, when they discovered what appeared to be Mercury spilling from one of the packages in the cart onto the ground below.”
The liquid had leaked both inside the building and outside on the loading dock, the release said.
Five Postal workers and two convenience store employees were medically evacuated and checked for contamination.
The Post Office, surrounding area, intersection at the location and an adjacent convenience store were isolated immediately and nearby residents were temporarily evacuated so they would not be exposed to potential fumes from the substance.
Because the Lake Post Office workers’ routine is to walk to the adjacent convenience store before beginning their mail delivery routes, the Post Office and store were both closed for a HazMat inspection, and the intersection at the scene was “cordoned off to keep vehicle traffic from interfering with the HazMat crews on the scene.“
Becker reported Tuesday, “The employees of the USPS and the convenience store were cleared (of contamination) Monday afternoon.” The store was reopened after HazMat cleared it, but the Post Office remained closed Tuesday morning. “No adverse health affects were reported by anyone who had been exposed.
The Monday release said, “At this time there is not a hazard to the area because it (the spill) was contained onsite.” Local Hospital staff were alerted and were ready to receive patients, if needed.
The Isabella HazMat Team, US Postal Officials, Garfield Township Fire Department, the Central Michigan Department of Public Health and the EMS Mobile Medical Response Ambulance Service responded to the location and were still on the scene at 2:20 pm when the press release came out.
The Postal Service determined that the package originated at the Detroit terminal. The release said, “They are back tracking to establish if any breach of the package occurred before it arrived at the Lake location.”
Tuesday morning Becker said, “The spill is not cleaned up yet. USPS officials have taken over the site and are awaiting their cleanup crews. In the meantime, the facility (Lake Post Office) remains closed.”