By press release dated February 24, 2016, the Ohio Department of Health (DOH) announced that “[s]crap metal facilities in Canton, Mansfield and Massillon received shipments containing low-levels of radiation.” The Ohio DOH release stated that the exact source of the radiation that contaminated the scrap metal is being investigated. “The contaminated scrap metal is securely contained and does not pose a health risk to the facilities’ employees or the general public,” states the Ohio DOH release.
The following day, on February 25, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) put out a press release stating that it was notified on February 23 “that recycle scrap contaminated with radioactive material was shipped from a PSC Metals, Inc. facility in Beaver Falls, PA, to two facilities in Ohio.” According to the Pennsylvania DEP release, “[a] radium-226 source of unknown origin was accidentally shredded with other materials, then shipped to processing facilities in Ohio.”
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has been notified of the incident. PCS Metals has hired a licensed decontamination provider to develop a plan for cleanup at the Beaver Falls scrap yard and the Ohio sites, as well as for safe disposal of the contaminated scrap metal.
Ohio DOH radiation protection staff was on-site at all three facilities to conduct radiation testing and to ensure planning for the safe disposal of the contaminated scrap metal. According to the Ohio DOH release, radiation surveys of contaminated scrap metal:
- delivered to PCS Metals, Inc. in Canton showed a highest reading of 70 microrem per hour, which is equivalent to less than one-tenth of the radiation dose from a chest x-ray; and,
- delivered to PCS Metals, Inc. in Massillon showed a highest reading of 25 millirem per hour, which is equivalent to the radiation dose from two-and-a-half chest x-rays within one hour.
The Ohio DOH release states that contaminated scrap metal delivered to Tube City, Inc. in Mansfield was not unloaded and instead redirected to PCS Metals’ Canton facility. Surveys of employee clothing, locker areas and break rooms at both PCS Metals locations did not show any radiation contamination.
A team from Pennsylvania DEP’s Radiation Protection Program took extensive readings at the Beaver Falls scrapyard. “Elevated readings were found on one large metal shredder and on gloves used by two workers,” states the Pennsylvania DEP release. “DEP is performing additional testing to ensure that there was no skin contamination. Radium-226 can be harmful if ingested.”
The Pennsylvania DEP release goes on to state that preliminary tests on the workers who operated the Beaver Falls machine showed no contamination, but that results are still pending. The Pennsylvania DEP release further states that the shredder has been isolated and that there is no indication that there is any contamination at the site, nor outside the scrapyard property.