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Mercury spill closes theater at Auburn

AUBURN (AP) — A theater on the Auburn University campus reopened Tuesday after being closed when cast members in a rehearsal discovered a small amount of mercury had spilled near some mechanical equipment.

The spill, discovered Sunday night at the Telfair Peet Theatre, was checked out by the University Department of Risk Management and Safety. While the building reopened, an area near the spill remained closed.

Mercury can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed by the skin. Although it was a small amount, the building was evacuated and closed to ensure the safety of all occupants, according to university spokesman Mike Clardy.

School officials said about 90 students, faculty and staff were affected by the building's closing. They were informed of the closure by signs posted on building doors Sunday night and by e-mails from theater director Dan LeRoche.

Clardy said they were also forbidden from building entry because the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system were turned off while the investigation was going on. The locks were also temporarily changed to keep any personnel from accidentally entering the building.

Theater Marketing Director Linda Bell said the lockout delayed preparation for the production of "Deadwood Dick or the Game of Gold," which opens the season on Sept. 27.

"It was very critical to us," Bell said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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