Moisture gauge containing radioactive material stolen

Officials say device is in locked position

January 10, 2004|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

A moisture-density gauge containing a small amount of radioactive material was reported stolen yesterday morning from a vehicle in Halethorpe, prompting state officials to issue a public alert for its return.

State officials said the yellow device was believed to be in a locked position and stored in a locked yellow transport case.

"It's not a danger as long as it remains in the locked position, which we believe it is," said Richard McIntire, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment. "If someone were to crack it open and be exposed to it for long periods of time, they could begin to suffer some effects."

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's editions about the theft of a moisture-density gauge containing a small amount of radioactive material gave an incorrect contact number for the Baltimore County police. Anyone with information about the device can call 410-887-0872.
The Sun regrets the errors.

State officials and police say they believe the thief did not realize what it is and was not trying to steal radioactive material.

The gauge, which measures moisture and compaction of ground surfaces, is a Troxler Model 3411B, serial number 18083. It was stolen from a vehicle in the 4000 block of Washington St., near the home of an employee of Hardin-Kight Associates Inc. The company uses the device for construction surveys.

The gauge contains cesium-137 and americium-241, but a padlock is kept on the device to ensure that the materials remain shielded when it is not being used. The case is 3 feet long, 2 feet wide and 2 feet high.

Devices with radioactive materials are regulated by the state, and alerts about missing devices are typically issued three or four times a year, McIntire said. Some devices are recovered.

Anyone who finds the device is asked to report it to the Baltimore County police at 410-887-2210, to state environmental officials at 866-633-4686, or to Hardin-Kight at 410-553-0802.

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