TWIN FALLS • Emergency responders were on the scene at a downtown Twin Falls building for a few hours Saturday after a cleaning crew discovered an old bottle of mercury cyanide in a basement.
Twin Falls fire and police departments responded to a call at 10:40 a.m.
Two men were cleaning out the basement of a building at 226 Main Avenue North.
They found a suspicious gallon-size glass bottle with liquid inside, said Brian Cunningham, battalion chief for the fire department.
The substance was in its original container and wasn’t leaking, he said.
Responders confirmed the liquid hadn’t been spilled or released from the bottle and they took a photo of the label.
Based on that information, state authorities determined the substance was mercury cyanide, Cunningham said.
Local responders called representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Department of Environmental Quality.
Authorities classified the situation as a “level one incident,”Cunningham said, meaning it could be handled by local agencies.
The responsibility for removing and disposing the bottle falls on the property owner, Cunningham said.
He said he recommended the property owner lock up the building until Monday and then contact a private clean-up company who can properly secure and dispose of the bottle.
“Ultimately, there really wasn’t an emergency,”he said, since the substance was always contained inside the bottle.
Cunningham said he commends the property owners for reporting their finding.
A local DEQ representative will follow up with the property owners within the next week to make sure the bottle has been properly disposed, he said.
At the scene, responders blocked off part of Main Avenue North as a precaution until they identified what substance was in the bottle.
The street was blocked off between Fairfield Street North and Gooding Street North for about one hour.
Twin Falls police officers evacuated the building, along with a couple of neighboring businesses.
Employees were allowed back into the adjacent businesses quickly, Cunningham said, when they discovered the substance was contained in its bottle.
Some research revealed mercury cyanide was once used as an antiseptic, he said, but its use was discontinued due to its toxicity.
It was also once used to treat syphilis, he said.
Cunningham said he presumes the bottle was in the basement of the downtown Twin Falls building for a long time and the label appeared to be “very old.”
On Saturday afternoon, building owner Melody Newbry waited across the street as responders were on scene.
A tenant was recently evicted from the building, she said, and the basement isn’t currently being occupied.
Newbry said she doesn’t know how long the bottle of cyanide has been down in the basement.
The building still has a Magic Valley Auto Parts sign above the storefront, but the business moved out years ago.