Volume 75, Number 38 | February 8 -14 2006

‘Mercury building’ still unsafe to re-enter one month after spill

By Jefferson Siegel

The six-story apartment building at 55 W. Eighth St. where liquid mercury was found dripping into a second-floor bedroom on Jan. 12 is still empty and undergoing continuous charcoal-filtered air ventilation. The walls, floors and ceilings of three apartments have been removed in the search for the ongoing source of mercury fumes.

A ground-floor shoe store that had remained open throughout the evacuationwas ordered closed over the weekend. The store, “Studio 55,” is located directly below the apartment where the mercury was first discovered. “You can basically stand in the shoe store and look up into the apartment,” Ian Michaels, a D.E.P. spokesperson, said on Monday.

“Conditions have not changed,” Michaels added. “They are removing more structural items from the building. They are actually tearing out all the floors, all the ceilings, from the three most affected apartments: the apartment that the mercury fell into and the two apartments immediately above it.”

Another round of air sampling is planned for Tuesday or Wednesday to test for mercury vapors throughout the building. Last week charcoal-based air-filtration systems were installed in the building to facilitate ventilation.

Also last week, landlord Janart Equities notified residents that, as of Feb. 1, the company would no longer pay for their housing expenses. Janart gave tenants the option of maintaining their current leases for $1 per month or canceling their leases without penalty. The approximately 15 building residents continue to live in hotels, with friends and in sublet apartments.

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