Chipeta Elementary re-opens after mercury cleanup

Chipeta Elementary re-opens April 3
Posted on 04/02/2019
empty cleaned classroom

Grand Junction, COChipeta Elementary School will reopen Wednesday, April 3, 2019. School will follow the regular Wednesday early release schedule, and buses will run on time. The Environmental Protection Agency, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Mesa County Public Health have declared that our school is clean, according to regulatory standards, and it is safe for students and staff to return to the building.

April 1, 2019 Press Release
Grand Junction, COChipeta Elementary School will remain closed Tuesday, April 2, 2019, due to ongoing mercury mitigation and testing efforts. 

We are happy to report that carpet taken out of the school over the weekend has been disposed of properly, and air samples taken to Denver on Sunday by Grande River Environmental Services came back with mercury levels below detectable limits today. 

However, EPA testing today found that there are more trace amounts of liquid mercury in the glue and concrete below the carpet in two rooms. This glue will be removed today, D51 custodians will put a seal over the floor tonight, and the EPA will perform another air sample test tomorrow. School will not be able to resume until at least Wednesday as a result. 

The Lunch Lizard will again be available for families from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 2, near the Ash Shelter at Lincoln Park.

March 29, 2019 Press Release
Grand Junction, CO - Due to ongoing mercury testing, Chipeta Elementary School will remain closed Monday, April 1, 2019. Families will be notified as soon as possible if school can resume on Tuesday, or if more time is needed.

The Lunch Lizard will again provide lunch for Chipeta students on Monday, April 1. Instead of coming to the school parking lot, the Lunch Lizard will be parked at the Ash Shelter at Lincoln Park from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tested the school for liquid mercury on Thursday, March 28, and found traces of mercury in five rooms, including two with carpet. Crews have been working to clean the rooms and remove the carpet and any mercury in it. They should complete their work by the end of this weekend. After that task is done, Grande River Environmental Services will conduct air sampling to check for gaseous mercury, and the results will be taken to a lab in Denver. The results should be ready Monday, April 1, at which time we can decide when school can reopen. 

District 51 would like to thank Grande River Environmental Services; Mesa County Public Health; the EPA; CDPHE; the staff at Chipeta Elementary; and our Maintenance, Environmental Safety, and Custodial staff for their expertise and tireless work investigating, testing, and making tough decisions in the interest of student health and safety. We’d also like to recognize the D51 Lunch Lizard and Nutrition Staff for going the extra mile to make sure our students get lunch, and Chipeta families for their overwhelming understanding and cooperation during this time. 

March 27, 2019 Press Release
Grand Junction, CO – Chipeta Elementary, 950 Chipeta Ave., will be closed on Thursday, March 28, and Friday, March 29, due to a recent mercury exposure inside the school. This action is being taken as a precaution on the advice of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Grande River Environmental Services is testing for mercury vapor in potentially exposed areas of the school. Results should arrive on Saturday, March 30. The results will determine if Chipeta Elementary can reopen on Monday, April 1.

Chipeta families are encouraged to seek medical care if a child has any symptoms of potential mercury exposure, such as nausea, vomiting, skin irritation, or coughing. More information about mercury exposure is available in the attached flier.

This is an ongoing and developing situation. Updates will be provided as information becomes available.


The decision was made late Wednesday afternoon to close Chipeta Elementary School March 28-29 due to mercury exposure. The school performed an extensive investigation on Wednesday March 27, after receiving a tip from a parent that a child may have brought mercury to school on Tuesday, March 26. The school interviewed several students multiple times as the story unfolded and spent countless hours trying to account for every drop of mercury. At first, it appeared the mercury may have only been in two rooms at the school that could be quarantined and allow school to remain open. However, more students came forward Wednesday afternoon near school dismissal time, and it became apparent that the substance had been in more places and touched by more students than originally thought. At this time, we are aware of 18 Chipeta Elementary School students who touched the substance. In addition, two classrooms, the cafeteria, the library, and the computer lab are being tested for possible mercury exposure. It appears only a small amount of mercury left the vials, and exposure to a small amount of liquid mercury is rarely harmful. Still, closing the school until all testing and mitigation can be completed is the best option to ensure staff and student health and peace of mind.    

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