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Tool containing radioactive material missing in Baltimore County; officials say there’s little public risk

A gauge used to measure soil conditions, which contains small amounts of radioactive material, has gone missing in northern Baltimore County.
A gauge used to measure soil conditions, which contains small amounts of radioactive material, has gone missing in northern Baltimore County. (Courtesy Photo/MDE)

State officials are seeking a missing tool last seen in northern Baltimore County on Sept. 23 that contains small amounts of radioactive material.

Maryland Department of the Environment officials said Oct. 31 that there is little risk to the public or environment from the tool, a surface moisture density gauge used to monitor moisture and soil compaction.

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The CPN Model MC1 gauge, with serial number 50709060, was being used by Geo-Technologoy Associates Inc. and was last seen Sept. 23 at a construction site near Baublitz Road and Worthington Ridge Road in the northwestern part of the county.

The company reported to the Department of Environment that the tool, valued at around $5,000, was placed on the tailgate of a truck at the construction site before a technician drove down Baublitz Road, Dover Road and then about 2 miles on Knox Avenue before realizing the tailgate was down and that the gauge was missing, officials said Thursday.

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The company, which could not be reached for comment, notified the department and the Baltimore County Police Department of the loss.

“It’s important to note that the loss was promptly reported to Baltimore County police and that, based on consultations with MDE, the company prepared flyers and signs that were distributed and displayed in the surrounding neighborhood. The company says it has also been checking on Craigslist to see whether the tool was being advertised for resale. As none of these efforts have led to the recovery of the tool, we are now seeking to spread the word more broadly," MDE spokesman Jay Apperson said in an email.

The tool contains trace amounts of radioactive material — 10 millicuries of cesium-137 and 50 millicuries of Americium-241. A curie is a unit that measures the intensity of the radioactivity in a unit of material. Maryland Department of Environment officials said the amount of material in the tool “could possibly cause temporary injury to someone who handled them or was otherwise in contact with or close to them for a period of many weeks,” but that is unlikely.

“It is very unlikely anyone would be permanently injured by this amount of radioactive material,” MDE wrote in a news release.

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Apperson said the material is double-encased in the tool, so it is “highly unlikely” that the device would break and allow any material to leak into the environment.

The missing tool is red, with measurements of 26.7 inches by 14.1 inches by 9.8 inches. Anyone with information about the missing tool is advised to avoid handling it and to report it to MDE at 866-633-4686, police by calling 911, or Geo-Technology Associates at 410-515-9446.

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