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Tuesday, September 3, 1996

Gil says Oak Street mercury spill to cost city $25,000 for cleanup

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Staff Writer

PECOS, September 3, 1996 - Cleanup costs from a mercury spill which
occurred Friday evening will end up costing Town of Pecos City more than

"We're still waiting for an exact dollar figure from the company, but we
have estimated that it will cost anywhere between $25,000 to $30,000,"
said Town of Pecos City Health and Sanitation Director Armando Gil.

The spill took place in the 700 block of South Oak Street, and was
reported at 8 p.m. Friday, after individuals that lived in the area
contacted the police and health and sanitation department.

"What happened is that some kids found some mercury in a vacant lot next
door to their home," said Gil.

The kids then proceeded to play with the contaminated material, placing
it in bottles, flasks and other containers and throwing the mercury at
each other, according to Gil.

"This was metallic mercury which is used in thermometers and gas
meters," said Gil. "Some people used to use this material for chronic
stomach disorders."

After police were contacted, the area was secured and two families were
evacuated from their homes, following an investigation.

"The families were evacuated for their own safety, which is what our
main concern was, the health safety of the families and the surrounding
area," said Gil, who added "We recommended that they contact their
physicians and get a urine analysis."

Eco-Logical Environmental Services of Midland was contacted Saturday to
conducted the clean-up, and the mercury was disposed of.

"I think we got it all," said Gil.

The hazardous material had to be cleaned up with a special vacuum, which
can be handled only by individuals who are certified and knowledgeable
in this area, according to Gil.

The material was found inside the two homes, as well as on sidewalks,
porches, the street and the vacant lot in the 700 block of Oak Street.

"These kids just took it everywhere either by carrying it in or with
their shoes," said Gil.

Town of Pecos City officials worked all day Saturday in trying to find
the mercury and securing the area, until the Eco-Logical workers arrived
to clean it up. The Midland crew worked until 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m., Gil

About 30 children were involved in playing with the hazardous material
and the incident affected anywhere from 25 to 30 individuals, including
both kids and adults.

The mercury weighed about 60 pounds.

"The children playing with it ranged in age from 10-16 years old," said

City Health Officer W.J. Bang was contacted and visited the area and the
individuals involved in the incident.

"At the time I went to the scene I advised them to take all the children
to see their physicians," said Bang.

Nobody was hospitalized, but the individuals involved were urged to
undergo a 24 Urine Test to identify how much mercury is in their system,
Bang explained.

Side effects include pulmonary damage, kidney damage and damage to the
nervous system. But Bang added, "This is only if a large amount of the
hazardous material is in the body."

There is treatment for individuals contaminated by this material,
according to Bang. "It depends on the level of mercury in the body
system, but it is treatable," he said.

"The only way it could affect them really seriously is if the material
reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit or more," said Gil.

"It does evaporate, but if the temperature reaches a high level the
mercury which is evaporated can be breathed in and create health
problems," said Bang.

Gil added that the vapors coming from a high level of mercury could
affect individuals seriously, but in this case the mercury was not hot
enough and there wasn't enough of it.

The brain is most sensitive, as is the nervous system if too much
mercury is inhaled.

The lungs and gastrointestinal tract may also be affected by high levels
of the toxic material.

"It's just a general poisoning which can affect different parts of the
body," said Bang.

"People should be aware that it's a highly poisonous material," he said.
"Even if a small amount, a centimeter is dropped, it needs to be cleaned
up thoroughly."

The incident remains under investigation.

"We continued to interview people on Sunday, but I think we got it all,"
said Gil, adding that any minor traces of the substance not cleaned up,
"will just eventually evaporate and dissolve."

It was recommended that the carpet in one of the homes be removed, just
in case some of it stayed in the fibers, Gil said.

Gramm touts welfare reform bill

during Friday stopover in Pecos

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Staff Writer

PECOS, September 3, 1996 - Senator Phil Gramm gave Pecosites "a brief
rundown," on the recently signed welfare reform bill during a stopover
here Friday afternoon.

The stop was one of several made in West Texas over the Labor Day
weekend by Gramm, the College Station Republican who is seeking a third
six-year term in the U.S. Senate against Democrat Victor Morales this

Gramm said the reform bill, which received 72 votes from both
Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, "eliminated the old welfare
program," and is designed to, "help people help themselves."

He explained that in 1970 just $90 billion was being spent annually on
welfare programs, "and we are now spending $310 billion a year." He said
the totals were adjusted for inflation and included the increase in the
poverty population.

Gramm also touted his amendment to the reform bill, which deals with the
prohibition of welfare aid for convicted drug felons.

All AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) cash assistance and
food stamp benefits will be denied to convicted of a state or federal
felony of drug possession, use or distribution.

The Gramm Amendment would not affect the eligibility of, or benefits to,
dependents and/or other family members of the convicted individual. Any
benefits being provided to the convicted individual's household would be
reduced by an amount no greater than that which would have otherwise
been provided to the convicted person, the senator said.

States must ask applicants, on their welfare applications, whether they
have been convicted of a drug-related felony. If the applicant replies,
"yes," the benefits described will be denied.

"We're asking for responsibility from people receiving public
assistance," added Gramm, who said one of the reasons for the reform
requirement was the high number of persons arrested during raids or
other drug-related occurrences who were found to be in possession of
food stamps and AFDC cards.

Denial of benefits will occur for persons convicted after the date of
enactment. However, individual states may opt out and provide benefits
to drug felons without restrictions.

The new bill, said the senator, "will require able-bodied men and women
to work."

The work requirement says, "no work, no benefits," and has a,
"pay-for-performance," condition to proportionally reduce benefits for
work missed by welfare recipients. This section mandates recipients to
take a job when offered one.

The welfare reform bill limits lifetime benefits to five years. "The
safety net," will no longer be a, "welfare hammock," said Gramm.

The bill, signed two weeks ago by President Clinton, removes the welfare
magnet, which is the incentive for immigrants to come to the United
States just to go on welfare, Gramm said.

"Immigrants should come to the U.S. with their sleeves rolled up, not
with their hands held out," said Gramm.

It also provides block grants to the states, which would get the federal
government out of the business, "telling Texas and other states," how to
deal with their own unique welfare populations.

"Starting in January, we will need new programs to implement the new
welfare reform bill," said Gramm. "We have one year to get 20 percent of
welfare recipients to work."

In answer to a question involving the work force and its ability to
monitor the program, Gramm said that the changes will eliminate the
federal bureaucracy, which will hopefully achieve some savings that can
be used for whatever works best in individual programs.

Refreshments were served during the briefing Friday afternoon, held in
the Reeves County Sheriff's Office training room.

Local vet hit with lawsuit

by El Paso man over death

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Staff Writer

W.D. Pruitt of El Paso County has sued local veterinarian, Dr. Ronald
Box, for damages in the death of his horse during treatment Feb. 8.

The suit, filed Friday in 143rd District Court, alleges that the horse
died after being administered an intravenous solution containing
anesthesia and other medication.

Dr. Box repaired a crack in the horse's hoof while the fluid was
administered, the petition claims. Shortly after the hoof was repaired,
the horse began to convulse and his heart stopped.

Despite attempts to revive the horse, it expired, the suit alleges.
Pruitt is charging Dr. Box with fraud under the Deceptive Trade
Practices-Consumer Protection Act, for negligence and breach of contract
in failing to provide safe medical treatment.

Pruitt seeks an unspecified amount of actual damages plus exemplary
damages in an amount to be determined by a jury.

Dr. Box said today he was not aware of the suit, but that he had
discussed Pruitt's claim with his insurance company and was told the
claim had no merit.

Reporter Bobbi Lang contributed to this report.


George W. Reynolds

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George W. Reynolds, 82, of Lake Coleman, died Saturday, Aug. 31, 1996,
at his residence. Services are incomplete at Stevens Funeral Home in


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PECOS, September 3, 1996 - High Monday 96, low last night 68. Tonight,
partly cloudy. A 20 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. Low
65-70. Southeast wind 5-10 mph, higher and gusty in and near storms.
Wednesday, partly cloudy. High in the mid 90s. South to southeast wind
5-15 mph.
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Copyright 1996 by Pecos Enterprise
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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