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Radioactive waste detected on Marilla garbage truck

Marilla’s two sanitation workers received a scare earlier this month when their garbage truck triggered radioactive waste detectors at a transfer station in Niagara Falls.

Highway Superintendent Ronald Unverdorben said the vehicle was contaminated by iodine, at a level nearly four times what’s accepted at Covanta Niagara, a facility that uses the waste to create steam energy.

“The detector’s limit was 23 and the garbage truck pegged the detector,” Unverdorben said.

Covanta has an environmental team on site, Unverdorben said, which immediately placed the truck in quarantine.

State Department of Environmental Conservation officials later identified the substance as a form of radioactive iodine.

Town officials were told the iodine is medical waste, which leads them to believe that a resident threw it out with the regular garbage instead of properly returning it to a health care facility.

Unverdorben said he spoke with a doctor who told him patients receiving radiation therapy are instructed on proper handling of the material.

Unverdorben said that while the episode was unnerving, the workers were not at significant risk of radiation poisoning.

“If someone were to stand next to the truck for 100 hours he would reach his yearly limit,” Unverdorben explained.

Town sanitation continues to be collected, but the truck remains quarantined since the Feb. 10 incident.

Unverdorben said he was told not to expect to get his truck back for at least two more weeks; as of Tuesday the truck’s level was at 15.

Marilla has two sanitation trucks, and the crew is now using a radiation detector on the daily routes.