'Mystery' mercury spill in Napier

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 18:53 23/12/2013

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A "mystery" mercury spill in Napier has flummoxed firefighters and prompted a dramatic evacuation for two residents who encountered the toxic metal.

A couple busy moving into their new home in the Napier suburb of Onekawa sparked an emergency today.

They upended a container left behind by former residents in their garage, spilling an estimated five litres of toxic liquid mercury onto themselves and the driveway.

Napier and Hastings fire service personnel were called out to attend to the spill at a house in Kennedy Rd shortly before 2pm and put the pair through decontamination showers, Napier fire service senior station officer Glenn Drew said.

The fire crew were then left to consider what to do with the mercury vapour which appeared like "silver globules" scattered over the concrete, Drew said.

The crew had called the National Poisons Centre for advice, and arranged a chemical cleaning specialist from Auckland to decontaminate the property tonight.

Centre staff told firefighters that having that volume of liquid mercury at a house was unusual, Drew said.

"They had never heard anything like that size of it."

Drew said everyone involved was scratching their heads over what that volume of liquid mercury, which is highly toxic, was doing in a residential garage.

'"It's a mystery for us but at the end of the day we were there to make sure everyone was safe."

The pair who lived at the house were shaken but safe and it was thought they should be able to return home tomorrow morning, Drew said.

Police had initially been called but then stood down, a central district police spokesman said.


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