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Radioactive Material In Solid Waste Monitoring

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is responsible for protecting all Pennsylvania citizens and the environment from hazardous material contaminants. This includes most sources of radiation. With increasing frequency, radioactive material is detected in municipal and residual solid waste by radiation monitors installed at processing and disposal facilities.

Sources of radiation have the potential to cause serious impact on human health and safety and the environment. In 2001, the department's Bureau of Radiation Protection and Bureau of Waste Management jointly developed regulations requiring all municipal and residual solid waste facilities to monitor all incoming wastes for the presence of radiation and radioactive materials.

In addition to the Solid Waste regulations enacted, the Bureau of Radiation Protection issued a guidance document to assist facilities with regulatory compliance.

Final Guidance Document on Radioactivity Monitoring at Solid Waste Processing and Disposal Facilities (PDF)

This document provides a comprehensive overview of the history, program experience and regulatory radiation monitoring requirements. In addition, the required facility Radiation Protection Action Plan, instrumentation, personnel training, record keeping and dose limits for workers and members of the public are outlined.

If you discover a source of radiation, there are three key factors to consider regarding exposure reduction for you and those around you: time, distance, and shielding.

  • Time: The most direct way to reduce radiation dose is to reduce the time spent in the vicinity of radiation sources. If the exposure time is cut in half, the dose will be cut in half.
  • Distance: When the working distance from a radiation source is doubled, the dose received from that source will be reduced to 25%. Moving from 20 feet to 40 feet from the source will decrease your exposure to 1/4 of the original exposure.
  • Shielding: Shielding is the use of any material to reduce the intensity of the radiation by absorbing or reflecting the radiation. Placing a substantial object (concrete or block wall, building, vehicle) between you and the source will decrease your exposure.