More than 30 years ago, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency put the city of Tiffin in charge of monitoring industrial waste that enters the sanitary sewer system as a means to protect the sewer system, treatment plant, city workers, the farm fields in our area and the Sandusky River.
Recently the Water Pollution Control Center underwent an industrial pretreatment inspection from a representative of the Ohio EPA. The subject of mercury came up, and as the city is required to help educate the public as part of its Ohio EPA-imposed "pollutant minimization plan," it was suggested a letter be submitted to The Advertiser-Tribune regarding mercury.
A short time back, I was visiting a yard sale when I saw two young children playing with old thermostats a couple of tables over. They were twisting the devices around while looking intently inside. I approached them and found what fascinated them so much were glass capsules of mercury inside the thermostats. I talked to the lady who was having the sale and explained the danger of the mercury and that it might be a good idea to remove the thermostats from the table, closer to where she was sitting, so they could be monitored. She didn't understand the danger of the mercury, saying she used to play with it when she was in school. She thought mercury was only dangerous if it was ingested.
In fact, mercury is a very dangerous element that can affect your nervous system, internal organs and brain. It can be absorbed through the skin, and vapors from the element can be inhaled, causing additional damage. Some may recall in February 1993 The (Toledo) Blade ran a story announcing mercury present in the Tiffin Columbian gym was cleaned up, but the gym remained shut down because of high mercury levels in the air. The story added that an environmental company had been called to clean up four ounces of mercury that students had thrown at the pep band during two basketball games, leading up to the suspension of five students. The EPA had set a safety benchmark of 0.01005 parts per million for the air inside a structure and the gym had 0.0122 ppm.
The Ottawa-Sandusky-Seneca Solid Waste District holds a recycling event in the fall where they will safely collect mercury thermometers and thermostats containing mercury. Please do not have these items out where children have access to them; rather, save them for the recycling this fall. Store them in a safe place where they cannot be damaged and leak mercury.
For more information on the dangers of mercury and what you can do to protect yourself, the OSS Solid Waste District can be contacted online at recycleoss.net, or telephone (888) 850-7224 or (419) 334-7222.