A concerned reader from the Ohio area asked, “Do you know of a mercury cyanide testing kit that works on puddle water? Our neighborhood is right on the edge of a big factory that has a lot of metal storing tanks with we don’t know what in them but we know the place does metal working and my frioend said metal working often uses mercury and cyanide. Can you help?”
We thank our friend from the Ohio area for their inquiry and would first like to congratulate them on taking the first step towards understanding more about the impact a local factory that works with metals (and possibly some ‘interesting’ chemicals stored in tanks) may or may not have on their water supply — or at least on the surface (puddle) water they encounter.
Given that the inquiry asked specifically about water pooled on the ground, we will assume our reader encountered puddles of water that formed as a result of runoff from the factory’s property and appeared to contain… ‘something unusual’ in terms of their color or other visual nature.
Having said that, we believe the more likely culprit responsible for why a puddle appeared ‘unusual’ probably had more to do with the presence of of oils, greases, and/or organic solvents than it did dissolved metals like mercury and/or cyanide. Oils, greases, and solvents tend to leave a (sometimes) colorful film on water’s surface whereas dissolved metals would typically impart no visually detectable characteristics.
To test for commonly found compounds in the oil, grease, and organic solvent families one must contact a certified water testing laboratory because no at-home water test kits exist that can reliably qualify or quantify compounds of their complexity.
Testing for mercury and cyanide?
Although we did say that we do not believe mercury or cyanide caused any of the discoloration our reader may have seen in a puddle, that does not mean cyanide, a compound used in many metal finishing shops, and mercury may not have washed down from the factory during a heavy rainstorm (or over time with light rains).
Thankfully simple and affordable test kits for cyanide and mercury do exist… and require no special equipment, training, or complex testing procedures.
- Boris’ Mercury detects dissolved mercury (Hg) as low as 2 ppb (parts per billion) and as high as 80 ppb. Each bottle comes with 50 tests and each test requires just 1 1/2 minutes to complete.
- Cyanide in Water Emergency Test Kit allows the average person to quickly test for the presence of dissolved cyanide in water. The test provides presence/absence test results for dissolved cyanide concentrations between 0.2 ppm an 1,700 ppm, takes very little time to perform, and costs very little.
Moral of the story?
If you see something unusual in your environment, don’t hesitate to ask questions like, “What is that? Why is that? Is that safe?” and definitely look for the answers to your questions. Often times factories (perhaps like the one mentioned at the start of this article) do not know they have a leak… or, in more extreme cases, they hope no one notices their leak.
Drawing attention to a possible problem begins the process of: 1) Determining if a problem exists; 2) Fixing the problem; 3) Installing proper safeguards to prevent the problem from happening again; and 4) Cleaning up any environmental damage caused by the problem.
Representatives and employees of government and non-profit environmental protection groups cannot be everywhere at all times so the nest time you see something that you think may pose a hazard to the environment, whose cleanliness helps make safe drinking water possible, do not just shrug it off and say, “Someone else will report it.”
One quick call may keep many animals, plants and people from serious illness… or death.