Spread of mercury contamination first discovered at Martinez Amtrak station wider than initially believed
Avoid parts of downtown, sections of streets temporarily closed over next several days
By Contra Costa Health
Last updated: May 9, 2023, 8:09 pm
Further investigation by county health officials shows traces of mercury was inadvertently spread by a garbage truck while traveling on its route after picking up contaminated trash from a waste receptacle at the Amtrak station in downtown Martinez on Monday.
To reduce the potential risk of exposure to mercury, Contra Costa Health (CCH) asks the public to avoid walking on the streets in affected parts of downtown Martinez and use the sidewalks until the residue of a spill is removed, so people or pets do not track the material indoors.
The contamination is limited to the street and has not been detected in amounts great enough to create an immediate risk to health.
“From a health standpoint, our primary concern is that people don’t step in the mercury on the street and bring it inside their homes where indoor vapors may pose a health hazard,” said Dr. Ori Tzvieli, the County’s health officer.
Dr. Tzvieli added that while the health risk posed by exposure to mercury from this release is low, it’s important for the community to be informed of any potential health risks and take appropriate actions. CCH issued a health advisory to the community earlier this evening.
Initially, the mercury release was thought to be contained to the area immediately outside the train station. But after examining the five-block route taken by the city of Martinez garbage truck today, Contra Costa Health’s hazmat team and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified small amounts of mercury in the roadway, primarily on Marina Vista and Alhambra Avenues and Berrellesa Street.
Sections of these streets will be temporarily closed over the next several days while cleanup takes place:
Marina Vista Avenue between the station and Alhambra Avenue; Alhambra from Marina Vista to Buckley Street; Buckley from Alhambra to Berrellesa Street; Berrellesa from Buckley north to the Martinez City Public Works yard.
The train station has been closed since mid-afternoon on Monday after ambulance paramedics from Confire at the site, who were there for another matter, saw mercury on the ground. Mercury has also been detected inside the train station itself.
Anyone at the Amtrak station Monday or anyone who walked along the affected streets that thinks they may have stepped in mercury should take precautions to avoid contact with it. Shoes or clothes that have touched mercury should be double bagged and sealed shut and placed outside. Call our Hazmat Program at 925-655-3200 during regular business hours for further handling instructions.
Shoes or clothes that have touched mercury should not be brought inside if it can be avoided. Never attempt to wash an article that may be contaminated with mercury, by hand or with a washing machine. This can increase the risk of the mercury being vaporized.
It is not known who dumped the mercury at the Amtrak station or why. Local law enforcement is investigating the matter.