Crews are cleaning up a mercury spill in New Ulm

Mercury is a liquid metal and it's toxic.

A Public Safety Department and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency are cleaning up a mercury spill that was reported Tuesday northwest of Mankato. It's at the 100 block of North Garden Street in New Ulm.

According to a news release, an area waste hauler noticed the spill in a dumpster and reported it.

It is believed that the property owner there removed about two gallons of the element from their garage and put it in the trash – which is not how you're suppose to dispose of the stuff. Then about a gallon spilled out into the dumpster.

Now the mercury is in the dumpster, alley and garbage truck.

Since it's a hazardous material, crews have to use special equipment to clean up and dispose of it.

What is mercury?

Mercury is an element (it's Hg if you're into the periodic table).

According to LiveScience, Hg comes from the Greek word hydrargyrum, which mens "liquid silver." Which is pretty much what it looks like. It's a silvery liquid metal at room temperature.

You can find it in thermometers, some dental fillings, fluorescent light bulbs, and even found in some fish.

What's so bad about it?

Well, mercury is toxic.

LiveScience says it can get into your system via open wounds or ingesting it. And if the element evaporates into a gas, you can inhale it.

Too much exposure can give you mercury poisoning, which affects your nervous system and some organs.

Because it's so toxic, you're not supposed to dispose of mercury in the trash. The Pollution Control Agency recommends calling your county's solid waste officer to see what you should do with your hazardous waste.

The MPCA sees about 10 mercury spills a year. If you ever suspect a mercury spill (or any other potentially hazardous material) call the Minnesota Duty Officer at 800-422-0798.

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