Environmental Radiation: The Broken Sewer Pipe Incident


L. E. Porter


Limited releases of low-level liquid radioactive wastes to the city sewer system are routinely conducted by Radiation Safety Office staff members, in full compliance with federal, state, and local regulations. In August of 1998 a source of release to the environment was discovered by a workman from the campus Nuclear Radiation Center staff. A connecting pipe extending from two special building drains to the city sewerage system had ruptured, allowing liquids to flow into an open field. The two special drains comprised one from the nuclear reactor cooling tower and one from the Radiation Safety Office Waste Shed. Immediate action followed. On the basis of a preliminary area survey some fourteen drums of contaminated surface soil were collected, and the entire area of possible contamination was fenced and posted. The Washington State Department of Health was duly notified and provided with close estimates of the identity and (maximum) activity released for each radionuclide involved. In the ensuing months the services of a private contractor were engaged for the purpose of site assessment. The Radiation Safety Office then prepared a plan for site remediation by university personnel. The plan was implemented following acceptance by regulatory agencies, and after agency checks of the efficacy of the plan the area in question was released for unrestricted use.


This abstract was presented at the 35th Annual Midyear Meeting, "Decommissioning and Environmental Restoration", Controlling Dose I Session, 2/17/2002 - 2/20/2002, held in Orlando, FL.

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