EKU shuts down science building after mercury leak

Eastern Kentucky University shut down its Moore Science Building on Thursday after workers detected mercury leaking from a piece of science equipment that was being moved.

Final exams taking place in the Moore Building were being rescheduled, and other activities in the building were called off, officials said. The building remained closed and was being decontaminated Thursday night. Officials said they were not sure when it would reopen.

Officials also were asking anyone who might have been on the first floor of the Moore Building around the time of the leak, 12:20 p.m., to contact campus police at (859) 622-1111.

University spokesman Marc Whitt said it was not immediately clear how much mercury leaked. The university is working with in-house, local and state agencies in assessing the leak and has contracted with an outside firm to handle clean-up, Whitt said.

Mercury is toxic if ingested.

The mercury spill was found as crews were moving items from the Moore Building to Eastern's yet-to-be-named new science building. Science education functions, now scattered across the EKU campus, are moving to the new building, which is to open in the spring semester.

"The mercury was discovered on the floor in Room 108 at Moore, and then traced from that room to an elevator at the northeast corner of the Moore Building," Whitt said.

It had not been determined Thursday afternoon whether any of the leaking mercury reached the new science building, he said.