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Published: Friday, 6/29/2007

Criminal probe launched into mercury spill at Mt. Gilead courthouse


MOUNT GILEAD, Ohio -- A mercury spill inside a courthouse is being investigated as a criminal act, authorities said.

Employees returning from lunch discovered the poisonous substance Wednesday in a hallway of the Morrow County Courthouse, forcing an evacuation. No one was injured and no illnesses have been reported.

Authorities are reviewing footage of a person captured on courthouse surveillance video and have determined that the mercury was intentionally spilled throughout the first and second floors, Morrow County Sheriff Steven Brenneman said in a statement. The video is being enhanced, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is helping with the investigation.

Mercury, a heavy liquid metal, is a toxin that can damage the human nervous system. Severe poisoning cases have caused cerebral palsy, mental retardation and death, although rarely.

The courthouse, about 40 miles north of Columbus, remains closed as state and federal environmental workers continue a cleanup. The building could reopen Monday, authorities said.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com

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