Radioactive substance dumped in GJ trash

Public health officials in search of original owner

Someone threw away a “small source” of radioactive Radium-226 into the trash somewhere in the Grand Valley, and public health officials want to know who did it.

Not to arrest them, but for fear they and others were exposed to “dangerously high” doses of radiation.

The small metal piece that was found is about one to two centimeters (about the size of two Tic Tacs candies). It was discovered when the radiation being emitted tripped an alarm as a city trash truck entered the Mesa County Solid Facility on April 24.

Garbage in that truck was collected somewhere in the city south of North Avenue, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Grand Junction public health officials were notified of the radioactive materials. Those officials said that many radioactive materials used for medical purposes decay quickly, but this one did not. A radioactive expert from Denver determined on Tuesday it was Radium-226.

The radium was found in a piece of folded tape that may have been inside a PVC pipe labeled “Source.” The pipe was about three inches in diameter and a foot to a foot and a half long. Other trash that was collected with the radium included glass plates used for X-rays, a chemistry set and books about lasers.

The trash was collected during the Grand Junction Spring Clean-Up event in April.

“These are very dangerous radiation levels, but the main concern is not for the general public,” said Dr. Christopher Urbina, executive director and chief medical officer of the department. “It is for the individual who was in possession of the material before it was discovered by the city. We want to talk to whomever disposed of this material so we can learn more about the person’s potential exposure and others who might have been exposed. We also want to confirm whether or not other hazardous materials remain in that person’s home or office.”


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