City Hall cleanup continues

Basement could reopen soon

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Leavesley Construction employee Aaron McMann vacuums up some of the leftover debris from flooring that was removed at City Hall after a small mercury spill in the basement forced the closure of the building for several days late last month. The offices nearest to the spill are expected to be reopened soon.

ALPENA — Three weeks after being closed because of an accidental mercury leak at City Hall, the basement of the building is on the verge of being reopened and building department staff will be allowed to move back into their offices.

The chemical damage from the spill required all the flooring on the bottom level of the facility to be torn out and replaced, which had to come after air quality levels were deemed safe.

Assistant Building Official Mike Kieliszewski said mercury leaked out of an old piece of equipment that was being kept in a storage room while the room was being cleaned by an employee. Because of the potential health impacts of the chemical, City Hall closed for several days. The first two levels were reopened after air quality tests showed it was safe for staff to return.

Testing and abatement of the chemical in the area of the leak took longer than expected, however.

Kieliszewski said mercury is unique because it splatters and physically separates into smaller droplets. He said there was drips of the chemical throughout the basement’s office area and extensive remodeling and testing needed to be done to rectify the situation.

“We were hoping we could use a high-efficiency particulate air vacuum to get it up, remove the carpeting and clean the surface below it,” Kieliszewski said. “As it turned out, it had soaked through the carpet and was on the substrate below and required further clean-up, including some of the flooring.”

Kieliszewski said it will likely take a few more weeks until new carpeting will be installed, but there will be some painting done to help cover up the smell that is left from old floor being removed.

“We have old wood, tile, sheet vinyl, and cement floors,” he said.

The testing company kept testing the air until it met the standard for residential homes, instead of the level for commercial businesses. Kieliszewski said. He said that was because of the number of hours staff works in the building.

As of Tuesday, the total cost of the project remained unknown and it will likely be a few weeks until the totals are known. Kieliszewski said 1,860 square feet of flooring needed to be replaced and there will also be costs for the testing and abatement of the chemical.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpeanews.com.