Radioactive device stolen from office

July 19, 1996|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

A device that uses radioactive materials to measure the moisture and density of soil was stolen Wednesday from the Linthicum headquarters of the construction company that is building the light rail extension, county police said.

The machine was taken from an old house in the 600 block of Camp Meade Road that is being used by Towson-based Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. The thief removed an air-conditioning unit from a window and broke into the house, setting off the alarm, about 10: 45 p.m., police said.

The thief ran off with office equipment and a bright yellow carrying case that contained the $6,000 moisture-density gauge and its accessories, police said. Officials said the machine emits very low levels of radiation and is safe as long as the cesium and americium, which are inside a glass tube encased in steel, are not released.

The gauge and the carrying case have warnings of radioactivity posted on them, police said.

Jeremy Cooper, a spokesman for the Columbia-based ATEC Associates, which owns the device, said the gauge is used at construction sites to make sure compacted dirt is dense enough and won't settle later.

The radioactive material is protected by two padlocks, one on a radioactive element-filled rod that slides into the ground and one on the case of the gauge. Cooper said it would take a hacksaw to cut through the padlocks.

Pub Date: 7/19/96

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