LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — A bright yellow box labeled as “radioactive” has created quite a stir in North Alabama.
The box was allegedly found laying on Mooresville Road in Tanner Tuesday afternoon. One driver stopped to check it out, thinking they may have lucked into a free Yeti cooler, but decided to pass that opportunity up after reading the warning.
That man told News 19 that he immediately went to Huntsville Hospital to be checked out as a precaution. He was later released.
According to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), the Alabama Radiation Control (ARC) received information about a construction gauge containing radioactive material that “did not appear to be in the possession of its owner.”
Officials confirmed the box was returned to its owner on Wednesday night, according to officials.
“The owner’s representative stated that the member of the public that picked up the gauge called the contact person listed in ADPH’s statement around the time of [the] evening news broadcast [on] January 11, 2023,” a spokesperson for ADPH said. “The owner was able to retrieve the gauge from this individual shortly thereafter.”
The ADPH did confirm the box contains two radioactive sources. The agency is also offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the gauge.
News 19 confirmed with an employee at a nearby business that after the first driver left, an older gentleman in a small white pickup truck stopped, picked up the mystery box, placed it in the bed of his truck, and drove off.
On Wednesday morning, the employee said two men arrived at the business, which captured all of that on surveillance footage, asking about the yellow radioactive box.
Now to be clear, both federal and state officials say the sources of radiation in the gauge are protected by the device’s shielding, but the public is still advised not to touch it.
According to Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the device is a “moisture density gauge” that is used to measure soil compaction and is used to test the structural integrity of roads, bridges and buildings.
Alabama is an “agreement state,” meaning materials that would normally be overseen by the U.S. NRC, like radioactive materials, are instead the responsibility of the state.
In a statement, ADPH told News 19 that, “Radioactive sources are secured inside the device by a locking mechanism and present no significant hazard to the finder unless the lock is defeated and the source removed from the internal shield.”
According to an ADPH spokesperson, the device’s shielding and radioactive sources were intact when it was returned, “as confirmed by radiation surveys.”
You can read ADPH’s entire statement below:
“On the evening of January 10, 2023, Alabama Radiation Control received information about a gauge containing radioactive material that did not appear to be in the possession of its owner. An employee of the owner reached out to an Alabama Radiation Control employee with information about a lost gauge later in the evening of January 10, 2023. Alabama Radiation Control sent an employee to find the gauge; however, the employee was unable to find the gauge at that location. On the morning of January 11, 2023, Alabama Radiation Control was contacted by a knowledgeable person employed by the gauge’s owner. The gauge was lost around 5750 Mooresville Road in Tanner, Alabama. The box container is yellow and rectangular in shape, with the words “Caution… Radioactive Material” on labels on the box. The manufacturer and model, Troxler 3430, are also printed on the box. The device inside the box is used for activities in construction, such as measuring the density and compaction of soils. The device contains 2 radioactive sources. While sources are to be secured inside the device shielding, we ask that members of the public do not touch the device. The device belongs to Building and Earth Sciences, phone numbers 205-836-6300 or 205-422-4820. The contact person for Building and Earth Sciences is Richard Brown. Persons who might have knowledge of the device’s location should contact local law enforcement, Alabama Radiation Control, or Emergency Management Agency officials. Alabama Radiation Control can be reached at 334-290-6244, 1-800-582-1866, or 334-324-0076. Radioactive sources are secured inside the device by a locking mechanism and present no significant hazard to the finder unless the lock is defeated and the source removed from the internal shield. Alabama Radiation Control and the owner are continuing to follow up on this matter.”
The unidentified man who picked up the case is not believed to be connected to the company it belongs to, Building and Earth Sciences.
After realizing the gauge was missing, the ARC said an employee was sent to find it Wednesday morning but found nothing along Mooresville Road.
For any questions or concerns, Alabama Radiation Control can be reached at 334-290-6244, 1-800-582-1866, or 334-324-0076.