(BCN/KRON) — A mercury spill that closed the Amtrak station in Martinez on Monday was bigger than initially thought, officials from Contra Costa Health (CCH) told the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. The station remained closed as of Tuesday night and Amtrak is using the old train station a few blocks away at Ferry Street and Marina Vista Avenue.

CCH issued a Level 2 hazardous material public health advisory in regard to the spill. The advisory impacts parts of downtown Martinez.

“A Public Health Advisory has been issued for areas of downtown Martinez near the Amtrak Train Station,” CCH said. “Minor mercury contamination has been detected in the street on Marina Vista Avenue to Alhambra Avenue to Buckley Street to Berrellesa Street. Residents are advised to avoid walking in the street. If you must be in the area, please remain on the sidewalk. Cleanup will be occurring for the next several days in the area. For more information, please visit cchealth.org”

Image from Contra Costa Health

A CCH investigation determined that the mercury was inadvertently spread by a garbage truck after it picked up contaminated trash from the Amtrak station. CCH is asking people to avoid walking in the streets in the affected parts of Downtown Martinez, recommending that they use the sidewalks instead until the residue is removed.

The mercury is limited to the street and does not pose an immediate risk to health, CCH said.

Small, round balls of mercury can be seen between cracks in the pavement. (Photo: Michael Thomas)

“From a health standpoint, our primary concern is that people don’t step in the mercury on the street and bring it inside their homes where indoor vapors may pose a health hazard,” said Dr. Ori Tzvieli, the County’s health officer.

Sections of these streets will be closed while a cleanup effort takes place:

  • Marina Vista Avenue between the Amtrak station and Alhambra Avenue
  • Alhambra Avenue from Marina Vista Avenue to Buckley Street
  • Buckley Street from Alhambra Avenue to Berrellesa Street
  • Berrellesa Street from Buckley north to the Martinez City Public Works yard

CCH deputy director Matt Kaufman said CCH was advised of the spill by the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District around 3 p.m. Monday. The station was then closed. CCH previously said it confirmed the presence of mercury around 5:45 p.m.

Kaufmann said CCH is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board to further assess the situation and do more monitoring.

Kaufmann said anyone who was in the area Monday should check shoes and clothing. Anyone who thinks they may have tracked through the mercury should double-bag clothes and shoes, put them outside, and call the county hazardous materials team at (925) 655-3200.

He said people should not attempt to wash their clothes or put them in a washing machine, as that could spread contamination.

Bay City News contributed to this report.