Man charged in connection to mercury spill in west Houston

The FBI says a man has been charged in connection to a mercury spill in west Houston.

Christopher Lee Melder, 19, was arrested and charged with Burglary, Unlawful Disposal of Hazardous Material and an outstanding felony drug possession warrant, the FBI said Monday morning.

On Sunday, officials said a mercury spill in west Houston was contained and there was no immediate threat to the public. A small amount of the chemical was reportedly spilled outside of at least three businesses. Authorities were investigating what caused the spill.

Officials say mercury spilled near Westview Drive and W. Sam Houston Parkway, but there are still a lot of questions that remain unanswered.

Investigators have been out on the scene since 1 p.m. Sunday, when the call first came from a concerned citizen who spotted silver-white liquid and called the police. 

“The threat to the public is very low because the spill occurred outdoors and the amount of chemical spilled is small,” said Dr. David Persse, local health authority for the Houston Health Department. “The amount of chemical detected on those exposed is below the level that’s dangerous to the average individual.”

According to officials, less than a pint of mercury was spilled in the parking lots of a Walmart, Sonic, and Shell. Reports of 60,000 gallons of spilled mercury are inaccurate. 

The Houston Fire Department Hazardous Materials Response Team responded to the scene and monitored the area for mercury contamination. Approximately 60 people were found to have trace amount of mercury contamination near their feet and shoes. They were decontaminated at the scene as a precaution. 

One person was transported to a hospital and 12 were evaluated on the scene and released.

The Houston Health Department urged people who were in the immediate area to monitor for symptoms over the next few days and seek medical attention at their doctor if necessary. The health department is notifying all hospitals and health care providers about testing.

Symptoms of acute mercury exposure can include headaches, eye and throat irritation, coughing and nausea. 

Law enforcement was working to determine if the spill was accidental or intentional. The investigation is being coordinated with the FBI. Updates about the investigation will be provided by the FBI Houston office.

Watch as officials gave an update.