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EPA confirms presence of mercury at Applegate Lane home; What happens next

City employees have been restricted from entering the property as beads of mercury found in the driveway can easily be brought into someone else's home.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Crews will be cleaning up one of two Highview homes next week after a potentially poisonous chemical was found inside and outside the home.

During their visit last week, officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found mercury within the fenced area of 6211 Applegate Lane. 

The agency will bring additional resources to the property early next week to begin the cleanup operation, which is expected to take three days. A portion of Applegate Lane will be restricted to local access during the operation.

The home is one of two used by Marc Hibel, who is under investigation for storing several hazardous and explosive chemicals on both properties. It's not the house that city officials planned to destroy in a controlled burn.

Credit: WHAS11 News
Marc Hibel's mugshot over a fence surrounding his Highview home, which has been restricted from public access.

The EPA's recommendation on whether or not a controlled burn at the second home, 6213 Applegate Lane, is the best path forward is expected sometime next week, according to Louisville Metro Emergency Services.

Both properties remain fenced and under 24-hour surveillance by Louisville Metro Police.

How dangerous is mercury?

The mercury discovered is elemental mercury. It's a metallic, silver-colored liquid used in many products including glass thermometers and medical and science equipment, according to the CDC

Experts warn that if something with mercury breaks, and the liquid spills out, it can produce poisonous vapors if inhaled. 

The EPA found beads of mercury in the driveway where an original spill had occurred. Air monitoring by the EPA and Metro agencies determined the vapors outside have already diluted and pose no health risk, however, mercury concentrations inside the home are above safe levels. 

Dr. Inder Singal, interim medical director for the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, said during the cleanup, the driveway's pavement will be torn up and re-poured. 

"The exposure is minimal," he said. "This is all being done as a precaution, [Mayor Craig Greenberg] wants to make sure the safety of our neighborhood is the ultimate goal here. And even though there were many different ways to remediate this, ultimately the EPA has decided the best option is to break the concrete and pour new concrete."

Credit: Metro Government

Officials said the most risk is limited to inside the building. No mercury has been detected in the surrounding area or off-site. Additionally, frequent air monitoring in the Highview neighborhood has shown no signs of health risks.

Despite this, there is a slight risk for anyone who has been on the property in the past month. Officials said the beads of mercury in the driveway can be picked up and taken into someone's home on their shoes if they walk through the area.

"For this reason, the area has been cordoned off and police, fire and other city employees have been advised not to enter the area," officials said.

Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW) has screened the shoes and vehicles of first responders who walked through the property last week and found "very low or no presence of mercury." These levels reportedly pose no health risk.

Officials said due to the amount of time that has passed, any small traces of mercury that have been taken off the property have most likely evaporated and dispersed by now. 

That being said, any residents who have been inside the fencing on the property over the past month are advised to contact LMPHW for a free mercury screening of shoes and vehicles used during the visit. 

These screenings take a few seconds and take place at LMPHW's main office at 400 E. Gray Street. Call 502-574-6650 to schedule an appointment.

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