LINCOLN BLVD — Radioactive feces found in a dumpster forced public safety officials Wednesday to close a local grocery store and adjacent parking lot while a hazardous materials crew collected the waste.

Santa Monica fire fighters were called in to investigate the “hot load” around 9 a.m. after a supervisor with the Resource Recovery and Recycling Division noticed a higher than normal level of radiation coming from a dumpster on the south side of Albertsons, located at the corner of Lincoln and Ocean Park boulevards, said Capt. Judah Mitchell, spokesperson for the Santa Monica Fire Department.

Fire fighters eventually determined that the exposure risk was low and non-life threatening. After consulting with the Los Angeles County Department of Health, the feces and other contents of the dumpster were collected in a City Hall trash truck to be transferred to the Sunshine Canyon Landfill in Sylmar, Calif. for proper disposal, Mitchell said.

All first-responders were evaluated following the incident and radiation readings were collected. The results were in the acceptable range and no injuries were reported, Mitchell said.

“They found human waste in an adult diaper … emitting medical grade Iodine 131 beta radiation that is used for the treatment of thyroid cancer,” Mitchell said. “Some knucklehead … disposed of it improperly.”

Out of precaution, officials closed off the parking lot adjacent to the grocery store and did not allow any new customers to enter. Those inside the store were allowed to finish shopping, Mitchell said. The Albertsons was cleared of customers within 10 to 15 minutes.

All waste collected by city workers goes through a testing process to determine if there are any hazardous chemicals, said Kim Braun, manager of the Resource Recovery and Recycling Division, which is in charge of collecting trash, yard waste and recyclables throughout the city.

If a meter gets a hit on a particular load, it cannot be dumped. The truck is instead isolated until the radiation dissipates or is disposed of properly and a supervisor goes out on the truck’s route to try and locate the source.

That’s how fire fighters were called out to Albertsons. The supervisor’s radiation meter got a hit about 30 feet from the dumpster, Mitchell said. A 50-foot perimeter was established to protect the public.

“This isn’t something uncommon in our business,” Braun said. “You get nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities so every once in a while things like this will occur. That’s why we take all of the necessary precautions we can for our staff and the public as well.”

 

kevinh@smdp.com