Mercury spill clears out local charter school

.EDEN PRAIRIE (AP) – More than 290 students were evacuated Thursday from a charter school in Eden Prairie after a mercury spill.

The spill at Eagle Ridge Academy involved a small amount of mercury in a science storage area, director Judy Ingison said. She said no students were in the area and that exposure was “extremely minimal at this time.” No one was hospitalized.

Officials with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency collected 10 pairs of shoes from students and clothing from one teacher for testing. “Apparently it had been tracked around,” agency spokesperson Sam Brungardt said.

Eagle Ridge Academy is a charter school for students in grades six through 12. Classes were canceled for the remainder of the day and were also canceled Friday for cleanup.

If inhaled, mercury can cause neurological and kidney damage.

Earlier this year, Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed a bill that prohibits the use of mercury in public and private K-12 schools. That law requires schools to stop buying mercury by the end of this year and to discard all mercury and instruments containing the toxic material by 2009. It does not apply to thermostats.