Dangerous Radium Source Found at Landfill
KREX News Room
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - A discovery made during this year's Spring Clean-up Days is causing state health officials to issue an alert.
A small piece of Radium-226, approximately one centimeter to two centimeters long and three millimeters wide, set off the alarm at the Mesa County Landfill as a truck carrying it was driving onto the scales on April 24.
Cameron Garcia is the waste director at the landfill and says it's very rare that the radiation alarms are set off.
"The radiation meter maybe will go off three to four times a year and normally it might be the driver or a resident driving through that had a medical procedure done that required some radiation treatment," he said.
Garcia said after seeing an elevated reading of radiation off the meter, he knew something was wrong. The truck was isolated and state health officials were contacted.
On May 14, the radiation measurements showed the source is emitting 200 millirem of radiation per hour. The public exposure limit for Radium-226 is 100 millirem per year.
"What we have here is a small piece of metal radium metal wrapped in tape. That is not a difficult situation from the stand point of the vacinity issue. It's more of a problem if somebody was in direct contact with it over a long period of time," said Steve Tarlton the manager of the Radiation Program at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Tarlton said there is no danger to neighbors or to the community, but CDPHE officials are wanting the individual who threw the metal away to contact them, because that person may have had close continued contact with those dangerous levels of radiation.
"If they were in proximity to it for a very long period of time they probably will see some health effects associated with that and that could include cancer of several kinds," said Tarlton.
Although the disposal was illegal, the department does not anticipate penalizing the person responsible, but are wanting to gather any other information about who was exposed to the Radium-226.
When it was found, the Radium was wrapped in duct tape and may have been inside of a PVC pipe labeled "source." It was thrown away with parts of a chemistry set and a book about lasers.
Authorities believe the trash was picked up somewhere inside Grand Junction city limits, in an area south of North Avenue.
If you have any information about the material, contact Steve Tarlton at 303-692-3423 or toll-free at 1-888-569-1831, extension 3423.