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MARKETPLACE:  Auto | Jobs | People Search | Personals | Travel | Yellow Pages  January 20, 2005
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Pawtucket Residents are Back After Mercury Spill
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PAWTUCKET, R.I. (AP) -- Residents of a Pawtucket apartment complex contaminated by a mercury spill nearly two months ago began returning to their dwellings on Wednesday, taking inventory of their losses aided by insurance adjusters.
   The residents were evacuated from the Lawn Terrace apartment complex in October, after vandals broke into a New England Gas storage shed, stole a glass jar containing mercury, and spilled it. The stolen mercury was traced to the apartment complex. The mercury came from natural gas regulators that had been taken out of service and were being cleaned for disposal, a New England Gas Company spokesman has said.
   Federal and state officials are investigating whether the utility broke the law by storing mercury in the shed.
Four people -- two men, ages 20 and 18, and two 17-year-old boys -- have been arrested on charges arising from the break-in and theft of mercury. The residents' dwellings had been emptied, so crews could clean the area. New carpets were put in, and the tenants will be compensated for lost possessions.
   The first checks were distributed last week. Also, New England Gas distributed gift certificates and checks for $2,000. Most of those affected by the spill spent the time in hotels. "The first week, it was nice," said Luis Cortes, 48. "But after that, the walls started to get closer and closer."
   The displaced people were allowed to return at the rate of two households per hour, meaning it would take several days for all in the 53-unit complex to move back in. Cleanup remains in one building where the worst contamination occurred.

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