- The Washington Times - Monday, July 1, 2002

Maryland has cited a company that makes medical products containing radioactive materials after particles of cobalt-60 were found in a load of company trash sent to a waste-transfer station.
A bag of paper towels and rags in a trash truck from Dickerson-based Neutron Products Inc. set off radiation detectors at the Shady Grove facility, according to Maryland Department of the Environment spokesman John Verrico.
The amount of radiation from the cobalt-60 found in the trash was low, about 1,000 times less than that emitted by a dental X-ray, Mr. Verrico said. But the incident Thursday prompted the state to send a citation to the company and move the trash back to Neutron.
"It is a clear violation of the regulations that govern the disposal of radioactive waste and materials that come into contact with it," he said.
Neutron Products President Jack Ransohoff said the trash came from an area of the plant where radioactive material is processed. He said the person who was supposed to check the trash apparently missed the cobalt-60.
But he said the amount was too small to pose a threat.
"There was absolutely no threat to anyone," he said. "This was not a big event."
Investigators from the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Administration also opened a review of workplace procedures at Neutron because of the incident, according to spokeswoman Gail Owen.
Neutron makes devices from cobalt-60 for cancer therapy, sterilization and food irradiation
Meanwhile, the company lost an appeal Thursday in Montgomery County Circuit Court to ease the terms of a state order to shut down manufacturing of cancer-treatment devices that contain cobalt-60.
The state environmental department told the company to stop manufacturing the equipment because it hadn't met requirements that it set aside $750,000 to pay for the cleanup and removal of radioactive material from its plant when it closes.
Neutron appealed, saying that it was bound by less stringent federal regulations, and that shutting down its operations would be unfair. State appeals courts rejected that argument.
Last December the company was given a 180-day period to use the cobalt-60 it already had and sell products to existing customers. That period ended this month.
Neutron sought to extend the term, but the state believed the company had no intention of shutting down operations, according to Assistant Attorney General Frank Levi.
"We didn't see any effort on their part to do what they were supposed to be doing," he said.
Circuit Judge William H. Rowan denied Neutron's appeal for an extension.
The decision affects Neutron's cancer-therapy devices, not its irradiation business, Mr. Levi said.
Residents living near the company's Dickerson plant say it has practiced shoddy safety measures since it opened in 1968. Montgomery County Council member Nancy Dacek, who represents the region, said the incident Thursday was another sign of "carelessness."
"After all these years and after all these violations, they can't get it right," she said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide