DURHAM, NC (WNCN) – HAZMAT crews were able to clear the scene in less than an hour after a box containing radioactive material was found laying in the middle of Duke Street.
“A pickup truck carrying a radioactive material had the box holding it fall out of the back of a truck leaving the car wash,” said Durham Fire Chief Robert Zoldos. “It fell in the middle of the street. A passerby actually picked it up and moved it out of the street, read what was on it, and called 911.”
Zoldos says that package contained radioactive material known as Colbalt-60, which has a wide variety of industrial and medical uses.
“When packaged appropriately, and used appropriately, there’s no big deal at all,” said Zoldos.
If mishandled, Cobalt-60 has been known to cause skin burns, radiation sickness, and even death.
“Because of its packaging, it kept it pretty protected,” said Zoldos. “It’s designed to take that sort of impact, but there was some concern because it’s labeled radioactive.”
EMS crews cleared everyone who handled the package, which was ultimately returned to its original owner.
Many people who live and work in the area around Duke Street wanted to known how something so dangerous could simply end up on the side of the road.
“It’s pretty rare,” said Zoldos. “The people who take care of radioactive material are doing it every day, but they’re doing it in a way that it stays safe. A lot of HAZMAT’s are fine as long as they are in their containers, but it’s when that genie is released from the bottle that we run into complications.”
The driver of the pickup truck that was carrying the radioactive material was questioned at the scene and ultimately released.
The North Carolina Radiological Society is currently investigating how that package was being handled.
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