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Feb 23, 2018 11:12 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays Library Closed Friday After Mercury Spill Discovered

Hampton Bays Public Library. FILE PHOTO
Feb 27, 2018 11:01 AM

The Hampton Bays Public Library was closed on Friday, February 23, after a mercury spill created hazardous conditions inside the Ponquogue Avenue building.

The library’s director, Susan LaVista, stressed that the spill was “contained” within the cabinet of an old grandfather clock that dates back to the 1980s and had stood near the main circulation desk.

“Staff who have been here for a long time say it’s been here as long as they recall,” she said of the clock.

Robert Maiorana, a field supervisor for Miller Environmental Group in Calverton, who led Friday’s cleanup inside the library, confirmed that the area surrounding the clock tested negative for mercury contamination.

Ms. LaVista added that all staff was removed from the building and that none of the patrons or staff members was exposed to mercury. The clock was removed from the building.

“There are so many things that have chemicals that you wouldn’t expect,” said Russ Losee, a hazmat technician with Miller Environmental.

According to officials of the state departments of Health and Environmental Conservation, even a small amount of mercury—such as what is inside a broken thermostat, for example—can cause harm, especially to children, unless it is properly cleaned up and removed. It is recommended that a trained professional, such as a hazardous waste contractor, conduct such cleanups whenever the amount of mercury spilled exceeds 3 grams, which is about the size of a green pea, according to the State Department of Health.

“Unfortunately, [because of] an aging facility and contents, along with limited community financial support, we are likely to experience these unexpected and expensive disruptions,” Board President David Zimmerman wrote in an email last week.

Ms. LaVista declined to provide the costs associated with the cleanup, and Mr. Zimmerman did not immediately respond to a follow-up email inquiring about the price of the work.

According to the library’s website, “a good portion of the inside of the case was contaminated, [however] the face and some of the inside works were saved.”

“Maybe it would make a cool table,” Ms. LaVista said, noting that a number of community members are upset about the clock’s removal.

The library informed patrons of the emergency closing through its website, and on social media accounts. The library reopened on Saturday, February 24, at 10 a.m.

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Where did the mercury come from? Hidden??? Air samples taken???
By knitter (1604), Southampton on Feb 23, 18 7:19 PM
Why would the entire antique clock need to be thrown out? I thought these things could be mediated. This seems odd.
By bb (852), Hampton Bays on Feb 24, 18 10:13 AM
I would think the clock could be carefully cleaned removing the mercury. Is the clock of so little value as to not be worth the expense and effort?
By MikeTerry (4), Hampton Bays, New York on Feb 24, 18 12:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
WHAT???!!!???
Very Confusing!!!
By saggguy (18), SAGAPONACK on Feb 26, 18 8:39 PM
Superfund site??? Knock it down and the director can build the new library. She probably didn't like the clock.
By knitter (1604), Southampton on Feb 28, 18 9:17 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By knitter (1604), Southampton on Feb 28, 18 9:17 AM
“Unfortunately, [because of] an aging facility and contents, along with limited community financial support, we are likely to experience these unexpected and expensive disruptions,” Board President David Zimmerman wrote in an email last week.”

Remove the antique clock, Zimmerman, and stop making dumb statements, blaming the incident on an aging facility (built in the 60's) and in very good shape. What can we expect next... that an antique rug is going to need expensive ...more
By sharkbait (32), Hampton Bays on Mar 1, 18 3:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
The Director reported several months ago that they allowed a volunteer student to spend hours trying to fix a clock. I wonder if this is the same clock and if there is some direct relationship? If so, this could have had a much worse outcome if he/she was exposed to the mercury since I suspect he/she had no experience with mercury. That being said, the referendum was voted down twice and the Board needs to move to maintain this building. We all have "aging facilities" and we do our best to maintain ...more
By G.A.Lombardi (327), Hampton Bays on Mar 1, 18 7:05 PM
Yes this is the same antique clock. Why wasn't this clock maintained? If the volunteer knew what they were doing, and I am not questioning it, did they provide them with funds to do any repairs? There is a clock shop right in HB who may have been happy to provide guidance. I am sure that a creative way could have been conceived to help keep this clock maintained. You don't tear down/throw out whatever doesn't work right. FIX IT!
By bb (852), Hampton Bays on Mar 2, 18 12:30 PM
Mechanical machines do have an estimated useful life and/or the parts are no longer available. I don't believe an antique clock is crucial for the operations of the library and apparently may contain dangerous material. The Library Board should have an inventory of all of its mechanical machinery, maintenance schedules, estimated useful life and be setting aside funds for repair and future replacement. If there is no one on the Board with budgeting and forecasting experience, they should be getting ...more
By G.A.Lombardi (327), Hampton Bays on Mar 2, 18 1:22 PM
Do you know that the parts for this antique clock were not available? Do you have experience with antiques that you are basing this on? Have you ever heard of the library appealing to the community to maintain the clock? Instead of the kids constantly supporting puppies and kittens, perhaps someone could have broadened their horizons with other charitable opportunities.

When the young man (I believe) volunteered to work on the clock, that would have been a perfect time to reach out ...more
By bb (852), Hampton Bays on Mar 7, 18 6:11 PM
Built in the 60's, renovated (poorly?) in the early 2000s? I'd have thought they had a responsibility to maintain the clock, just as they need to maintain the rest of the building and its contents.
By bb (852), Hampton Bays on Mar 1, 18 4:44 PM
bb, we seem to be in agreement about how important it is to maintain the library building and mechanical equipment - I wasn't really referring to the clock specifically -just all of the mechanical in the library i.e boilers etc. - at some point they need to be replaced and the library should have a schedule of those items. I don't know much about the clock itself.
By G.A.Lombardi (327), Hampton Bays on Mar 7, 18 6:32 PM
I agree. I am told that the problem is the last renovation was done poorly. That doesn't inspire my confidence for yet another renovation.
By bb (852), Hampton Bays on Mar 7, 18 8:52 PM