MERCERSBURG, Pa. —Tuscarora School District officials recently received an unwelcome surprise when they learned Mercersburg Elementary School’s gym floor has mercury that needs to be professionally removed.
The elementary school is in the midst of a $7 million renovation that is expected to be completed before the Aug. 27 start of the academic year.
Testing on the gym floor, which is original to the 1980 building, revealed mercury outside acceptable limits, meaning the floor needs to be removed through a special process, according to Stanley Morgan, facilities director for the school district.
“In its solid form, it’s OK,” Morgan said. “When you start tearing it up, it becomes mercury gas.”
The school board expects to spend up to $60,000 for a contractor to remove the floor. The process will resemble that for removing asbestos, with the affected area being sealed off and subjected to negative pressure while crews wear respirators.
Mercury was used as a catalyst in a 3M product when the floor was installed, Morgan said.
Parents should not be alarmed about their children being around the floor, Morgan said. It is a matter of ensuring the materials are removed correctly because of the gas, he said.
Nationwide, research on the product continues, Morgan said.
“They’re just finding out now it’s there,” he said.
Mercersburg Elementary School’s gym floor materials will be disposed of as hazardous waste, Morgan said.
The school district will be seeking a contractor in coming weeks, so the process can be finished before school starts. It already removed other floors with asbestos from the school.