Uranium ore found in the Grand Canyon National Park museum has exposed people and employees to perilous levels of radiation as per the park’s wellness and safety manager.
Elston Stephenson, the manager said that he has been asking the officers from National Park Service and Department since last summer to caution employees and sightseers about the hazardous levels of radiation they have been exposed to. After his tries and appeals were overlooked, he decided to send an email to all park staff at the Grand Canyon.
“If you were in the Museum Collections Building (bldg 2C) between the year 2000 and June 18, 2018, you were ‘exposed’ to uranium by OSHA’s definition,” Stephenson mentions in the email.
“Please understand, this doesn’t mean that you’re somehow contaminated, or that you are going to have health issues. It merely means essentially that there was uranium on the site and you were in its presence. … And by law we are supposed to tell you.”
The National Park Service is examining what occurred and has teamed up with Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Arizona Department of Health Services on the matter.
“Uranium naturally occurs in the rocks of Grand Canyon National Park. A recent survey of the Grand Canyon National Park’s museum collection facility found radiation levels at ‘background’ levels — the amount is always present in the environment — and below levels of concern for public health and safety. There is no current risk to the public or Park employees,” the department has mentioned in a statement.
The National Park Service has also claimed that there is “no current risk” to the community or park staff.
“The museum collection facility is open and employee work routines have continued as normal,” Emily Davis, the spokeswoman for the Grand Canyon National Park, stated as she spoke to the press. “The NPS takes public and employee safety and the response to allegations seriously. We will share additional information about this matter as the investigation continues.”
But on the other hand, we have Stephenson who says that last year in June he discovered three 5-gallon buckets full of uranium ore that had been stored next to a taxidermy display at the museum for about 20 years.He further added that as soon as he found out, he communicated about the danger to a park service radiation specialist.
Agreeing with Stephenson, a report created by a park service radiation safety officer after detailed observation showed positive results for radioactivity exceeding background levels nearby the buckets, but the radiation levels were not high anywhere else.
In order to deal with the matter, the park service came to the decision of removing the buckets and disposing of the contents in the close by Lost Orphan uranium mine, where the ore had originally come from.
Stephenson has reported that park service staff was in adequately equipped to handle the harmful material, using the buckets in garden gloves acquired from a general store, and using mops to elevate the buckets for carrying.
He also told that visits of schoolchildren often marched by the buckets at the museum, but his bigger fear was for park workforce and high school interns employed that was near the uranium almost every day.
“A safe workplace really is a human right,” he said and we totally agree with him.
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17 November, 2019