Mr. Bobby Griffin, who lives east of Houston, was surveying the damage done to his property but Hurricane Harvey on Tuesday when he happened to look down and see “a spray of silvery dots”1 in the wet sand that was sticking to his toes as he walked barefoot. You see, Griffin’s riverfront property is only a few hundred yards from the San Jacinto Waste Pits.


The waste pits, which have been designated as a Superfund site and are therefore slated to be cleaned up by the federal government, aren’t necessarily to blame. The truth is no one knows for sure if the elemental mercury came from the site, it’s just as likely that the mercury was in a container nearby that broke open during the flood.

Officials were set to be dispatched to Griffin’s property as soon as possible.

“Elemental mercury, a liquid metal that breaks into tiny droplets, is a neurotoxin poisonous to the brain and the nervous system. It is not well-absorbed through the skin, but its vapors can enter the lungs.

Mercury has been used in older thermometers, fluorescent light bulbs, and some electrical switches. It can also transform into methylmercury and enter the water supply. Fish contaminated with mercury have been a major source of exposure for people in the United States. Mercury has been a major air pollutant and a byproduct of manufacturing.” 2

It is extremely dangerous and should not be handled.


At this time, officials aren’t sure where the floodwaters might have carried the mercury so people in the area should stay vigilant and contact the police if they find any.

Sources and References

  1. NYT, September 6, 2017.
  2. NYT, September 6, 2017.