Saturday, October 23, 1999

State officials investigate possible release of radioactivity

RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) - A small amount of radioactivity may have been released from a shipment of empty containers that traveled by flatbed truck from Tennessee to a waste-processing site near here, the state Department of Health said.

The agency said in a statement Thursday it has asked a U.S. Department of Energy team to help survey part of the truck's route to help determine whether radiation was released.

Initial tests by the Health Department detected contamination on one of the containers and on the truck's flatbed, the agency said. The flatbed and containers were covered by a tarp during the shipment.

Health officials do not believe any significant contamination occurred on highways along the truck's route between Tennessee and Washington. Any risk to the public is minimal, said Gary Robertson, the Health Department's supervisor of radioactive waste management.

The truck traveled via interstate highways through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon.

The containers were shipped to Allied Technology Group Inc.'s facility near Richland.

The contaminated material detected on one of the containers and the flatbed was condensate resin, which is used to purify cooling water inside nuclear power plants.

The resin was supposed to have been removed from the containers in Tennessee, with final cleanup and disposal of the containers occurring at the Allied Technology site.

"Well, absolutely, as a citizen that's exactly what I want to happen," Bill Hewitt, president of ATG waste management services, told KING-TV of the survey effort. "I mean, regulators are making sure there are no problems with the public health and safety."

An Energy Department survey vehicle on Thursday night began conducting tests along sections of Washington 240, which runs through the Hanford nuclear reservation. The tests were to continue today.