Source of mercury spill in Martinez Amtrak parking lot still a mystery

The Amtrak station in Martinez remains partially closed as Contra Costa County health officials investigate a hazardous materials spill involving mercury in the parking lot.

The county's hazardous materials team and the Environmental Protection Agency are working to measure the size and scope of a mercury spill.

Contra Costa County Firefighters discovered the spill around 3 p.m. Monday while responding to an unrelated medical call.

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"When firefighters were about to leave, they noticed they were standing around in what looked like small pools of mercury," said Martinez police commander Greg Hurlbut.

Firefighters estimated it was about a pound of mercury in the station parking lot. Police said there was evidence that people and possibly several vehicles had already walked and driven through the spill, spreading the toxic metal to other parts of the parking lot.

Amtrak station in Martinez is closed because of mercury spill. 

As of noon on Tuesday, workers were still trying to determine if it had spread into nearby storm drains.

Clean-up has not yet occurred.

"It's definitely more than what you would get out of a common thermometer," said Hurlbut of the amount that spilled.

Police and emergency responders estimate it will take at least two days to track down all possible traces of the spill and then contract a specialized hazardous waste crew to clean it to meet EPA standards and reopen the parking lot.

Capitol Corridor passengers are still able to board and exit trains in Martinez, but at the Old Ferry Depot about a block away from the new train platform.

Police said there is no indication the spill is connected to anything on the trains, or any nearby construction sites. They do not believe it was a criminal act.

"It is around a garbage can. We don't know if it came from a device in the garbage can or if it was an accident," said Hurlbut. "It's all a big mystery."

Amtrak does have surveillance cameras in their parking lot, but they are not pointed in the area where the spill was found.

Police want anyone with information to give their dispatch, non-emergency number a call. If they discover someone illegally dumped the mercury, that person or business could end up footing the bill for the cleanup.