Kids pull dangerous prank; risk mercury contamination

Snyder sports fans went to a football game, last Friday, for some fall fun and got a lot more than they bargained for.  Someone brought seven pounds of liquid mercury.  Mercury is a metal that can be toxic and cause permanent brain damage.  Investigators believe students brought the dangerous metal to the event.

The mercury was found in band section of the bleachers where Sheila Wilhite and her foster daughter were sitting.  Wilhite said the school tried not to cause a panic in the crowd as officials led them out of the game to remove their contaminated uniforms.  A school representative said at least seven band students had mercury on them, but so far, none have complained of any physical problems.

The Department of Environmental Quality has cleaned it up, and everyone who may have been exposed while at the game are okay.  But, there's another problem.  There's much more mercury where the first batch came from - much, much more.

The EPA and DEQ think they've found the source and they found so much more that they called in the Dallas EPA.  John Martin, Representative with the EPA says after the stadium was cleaned up, at least five students were questioned and two admitted they brought mercury to the game.  "Their homes were searched - we found mercury in them," said Martin.

Investigators found at least 80 pounds of it in the two homes that they searched.  Most of the metal had been kept in a container but Martin says it's a serious situation.  Young children were playing with the dangerous substance - playing with it and smearing it through one of the houses.  "For some reason, kids like to play with it," says Martin.

Martin says the father of one of the kids responsible had brought it home.  He had found the mercury at an old abandoned water treatment plant and had brought it home with the intention of selling it.  But, Martin says, no one pays for that sort of thing anymore.  So, the man was stuck with it.  He told investigators that it must have been sitting in his home for over a year.

School Superintendent Dee Dee Graham says she doesn't know how the mercury was brought to the football game - and until she does, she can't say what the kids' punishment might be.

The homes where the metal was found are being de-contaminated and right now, that's all the EPA is concerned with.  After that, they will begin to determine if there was any wrongdoing.  It will take approximately three weeks before the houses are totally safe to live in again.