Ten Lbs. Mercury Still Unaccounted After ADM Well Spill - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Ten Lbs. Mercury Still Unaccounted After ADM Well Spill


       Two months after a mercury spill at a Quad Cities area plant and much of the toxic element is unaccounted for. The Iowa DNR believes more than ten pounds of mercury is still within a well at ADM in Clinton.  
     KWQC first brought you this story in early November. It happened when crews were pulling a pump from the company's private well and we now have a better idea of the potential impact on nearby water supplies.     
     The EPA's contaminate limit for mercury is two parts of mercury per billion parts (2 ppb) of drinking water. That's like two drops of water in 250 chemical barrels. The DNR says a test in the nearest well at ADM came back showing a very small amount in the parts per trillion level. That would be like a drop out of 20 Olympic-size swimming pools.
     While officials say threat to public drinking water is extremely low they can't rule out all possibilities down the road.
     "There's going to be continuous monitoring of the water from those nearby wells," said Ryan Stouder, and Iowa DNR Environmental Specialist.
     When the mercury release happened in early November about a pound of it was recovered from the soil. The motor from the pump which typically contains about 17 pounds of the hazardous material was then shipped off to see how much it still contained. It turns out about four pounds remained leaving ten to eleven pounds of mercury, an amount that would fill a large plastic cup, left missing. According to the DNR it likely leaked beneath the surface in a 2400 foot well.
     "It's obviously a concern since it's in the water, but they don't believe it's going to migrate very far since mercury is heavy," added Stouder.
     Mercury exposure at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system of people of all ages. But experts say even the ingestion of the amount in a glass thermometer would not be fatal.
     The closest Iowa American Water well used for public drinking supply is about a mile from the spill site. Company spokesperson Lisa Reisen says nearby wells are being monitored closely. Tests haven't shown any problems and all state and federal standards are being met so it's safe to consume.
     "We've been told by experts, geologists, from the Iowa DNR that based on the flow of the aquifer that it would be many years before it could impact our wells and that would be a worst case scenario," said Reisen.
     ADM has yet to submit its plan for cleanup which is due to the DNR by January 10th. Officials say it hasn't be decided if the company will face legal action or fines.
      ADM officials giving this statement today in part, "ADM originally believed that the clean up would be complete by the end of 2013.  However, the process has taken a little longer due to the unusual nature of the spill ... The affected well remains out of service, operations at the plant are not impacted and there are no indications that mercury has migrated or that it will migrate outside of the well casing."


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