A section of seawall near English Bay was cordoned off this evening, and a Hazmat team deployed after about a cup of liquid mercury spilled on the pavement.
But Vancouver Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Peter Bridge says the team and the city’s environmental chemist are stumped about how about a cup of the material ended up scattered across the top of the Beachhouse.
“The question is where the mercury came from, because it was a substantial amount, and where somebody gets that amount of mercury… it’s beyond our knowledge.”
For context, Bridge says that’s about the contents of 200 thermometers.
Stars on the ground
Bridge says the Vancouver Fire Rescue Hazardous Materials team blocked off an area on Beach Avenue near the inukshuk statue just before five this evening, after a man identifying himself as a chemist called the fire department.
“It looked like stars on the ground… like little shiny marbles all over the place. That weren’t moving of course. Or you could look at it like tempered glass broken in the sunshine. Cause it was just little shiny dots everywhere. And it was covering approximately about a 10 by 27 foot area.”
The Vancouver Police and Park Board rangers also attended the scene.
He says no one was harmed by the material, but that it had been stepped on and likely tracked into the surrounding park.
Bridge says a contractor was called in to safely clean up the material and the hazmat team has since released the scene… but the mystery of how the mercury got there remains.
Mercury is the only metallic element that is liquid at room temperature.
It is used in a variety of industrial applications, including certain batteries, fluorescent tube lights, as well as thermometers.
Health Canada warns it can be dangerous, particularly to children. It says depending on the form of mercury and level of exposure, harmful effects can range from rashes to birth defects to death in the case of extreme exposure.
“Because mercury is toxic and has an impact on human and environmental health, even small mercury spills should be considered hazardous and cleaned up with caution. Liquid elemental mercury, commonly found in household thermometers, thermostats and barometers, quickly forms a poisonous, colourless and odourless vapour when spilled.”