Discovery of chemical slowing Athens garbage service - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Discovery of chemical slowing Athens garbage service

Iodine-131 is a radioactive chemical prohibited in city dumps. Iodine-131 is a radioactive chemical prohibited in city dumps.

Athens authorities are trying to get to the bottom of who is dumping radioactive medical waste in the garbage. City crews report it has happened three times in the last three weeks, and slowed down garbage service as a result.

Athens Public Works officials said the material is Iodine-131 and that it is not something that is supposed to end up in the city dump. Crews said the material started popping up three weeks ago. The city scans every garbage truck to make sure this kind of material doesn't make it into the dump.

Alabama Department of Environmental Management has had to bring a crew in from Montgomery to sift through the garbage and remove the Iodine-131. It slows down the garbage service to the community because trucks found to contain the material can no longer be used.

"Once it gets to the truck, it's isolated to the truck itself, so I don't think there's a cause for public health concern," said James Rich with Athens Public Works. "We would like for it to be properly disposed of, and whoever is disposing of it to let our department know."

Iodine-131 is used to diagnose and treat thyroid cancer. It is made via a nuclear fission process. Doctors prescribe it in capsule or liquid form for patients to swallow. It can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Exposure to large amounts of the material can cause burns to the eyes and skin.

APW has determined that this is happening during Thursday's pick-up. According to a sanitation pick-up schedule, the person, persons, or business dumping the material is in the southwest region of the city. The city said that whoever is responsible is not in trouble.

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