- The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) issued an alert that radioactive scrap was detected at two PSC Metals yards in Canton and Massillon, OH, and at a TMS International facility in Mansfield, OH. The material, identified as a "radium-226 source of unknown origin," was accidentally shredded and shipped to the Ohio facilities from Beaver Falls, PA, as reported in Recycling Today.
- Readings for the contaminated metal sent to Massillon were as high as 25 millirem per hour, equaling radiation from two-and-a-half chest X-rays within an hour. The radioactive metal delivered to TSM in Mansfield was redirected to PSC Metals’ Canton facility. And at the originating Beaver Falls scrap yard, elevated readings were found on a shredder and on two of the workers' gloves, though shredder operators were not positive for contamination during preliminary testing.
- A licensed decontamination expert is devising a cleanup and disposal plan and, meanwhile, the scrap metal is contained and poses no health threat to employees or the public, according to Gene Phillips of the ODH Bureau of Environmental Health and Radiation Protection. The original source of the radiation is under investigation.
It is events such as what has just happened in Ohio and Pennsylvania that illustrate how critical alarms for radiation monitoring are. They serve to look out for and detect radiation in shipments — hazardous materials that could otherwise go undetected.
These shipments manage to find their way into landfills too. Last week, Kentucky had an incident involving hazardous waste that caused an alert to be put out to landfills statewide.
"Radiation can occur in scrap metal for a variety of reasons, including because the owner who sends it for recycling does not realize that the [obsolete] equipment contains small radioactive sources," said Phillips to Recycling Today.
DEP will take extra precautions, performing additional testing to ensure there was no skin contamination. However, the agency said, the shredder was isolated in late February, and "PSC Metals is working with a private contractor to develop a plan to quickly decontaminate the Beaver Falls scrap yard and the Ohio sites. DEP ... will continue to take follow-up readings and monitor the situation as needed."