Stolen Gauge Found in Trash
March 22, 2007 (WPVI) -- The stolen radioactive gauge taken from a South Philadelphia construction site on Monday was found at a salvage company on Thursday.
Authorities say the radioactive material is contained to a trash can inside a salvage company. It doesn't pose a danger, but police will remain on site to monitor the business until the material can be cleaned up.
Police and emergency personnel had a different look as they walked in and out of Nicetown Salvage on Thursday night. The protective suits worn earlier in the day were off and nerves calmed.
"The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had a crew here with meters and determined that there is no contamination," said Jim Dwyer of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
A Nicetown Salvage employee found the yellow container in an alley next to the business. He called 911. Police opened the box, but the device was gone. They found it a short time later in a trash can inside Nicetown Salvage.
Police say it appears an employee put the device through a crusher.
"The box is clearly marked and why someone would open it and take the contents out and crush it is mind boggling," said Inspector Joe O'Connor.
The owner of Nicetown Salvage disputes that claim, saying the device was not crushed nor put through any sort of equipment in the business.
"My guy found it this morning, called 911 and you know just did the right thing," said Bill Carr.
Police quickly shut down a portion of Germantown Avenue. They tested employees for contamination. They put them on a bus and took them in for questioning.
The gauge is used for measuring the density of soil at construction sites. that contained small amounts of two radioactive isotopes.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the materials are only a danger if handled directly for an extended period. The general public was not in danger, although police did evacuate a nearby medical clinic as a precaution.
The device was taken on Monday afternoon from the 3300 block of Tasker Street. Sometime between 2:30 and 4:30, the device was stolen from the truck bed of a construction vehicle parked on the grounds of the Audenreid High School Replacement Project.
Police continue to investigate the theft. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is overseeing the removal of the gauge.
Underwood Construction out of New Jersey owns the device. The NRC says the company followed all regulatory requirements. Nonetheless, it is on the hook for the cleanup. Underwood is in the process of hiring a licensed contractor who will remove it. Until then, the salvage company remains shut down.
(Copyright 2007 by 6abc and Action News. All rights reserved.)
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