UPDATE: Missing radioactive material found

Posted at 8:12 PM, Sep 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-12 09:55:37-04

UPDATE: Dinwiddie officials recovered the moisture density gauge missing since Wednesday afternoon.

"A citizen returned the device to a local business site this morning. The citizen had picked the device up after witnessing it fall from a vehicle near the intersection of Olgers Road and US Route 460," Dinwiddie Fire Chief Dennis Hale wrote in a morning update. "The citizen returned the device to the business site believing it may have came from there. The device did not belong to that business,however, personnel at the site recognized it from earlier news reports and contacted authorities."

Hale said the device is  being evaluated to make sure it is safe.  There is also an investigation underway into how the device ended up on the road and why it was originally reported as stolen, Hale said.

DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. (WTVR)--Police are searching for a yellow case that contains radioactive materials, and that was stolen from a construction jobsite on Wednesday afternoon.

A moisture density gauge that contained radioactive material was stolen from the bed of a 2008 Ford Ranger pickup truck at a job-site in the 4000 block of Chesdin Boulevard  in Dinwiddie County, between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00  p.m., police said.

Authorities are making a plea to whoever stole the yellow case out the back of a pick-up truck: leave it alone and do not damage it.

The Virginia Department of Health said that the radioactive material contained in the gauge remains safe when intact and shielded, but the material can pose a potential health threat if the device is damaged and/or inappropriately used.

"If it remains in the case, there's no public health threat or danger,” said Mike Welling, a Virginia Health Department official who oversees the state’s radioactive materials program.

However if the thief gets curious and tries to get inside the case, he could harm himself with exposure to low grade radiation.

"It can affect people near the device, but if you are 15 feet away, you won't be exposed to external radiation," said Welling.

The device is used to check moisture and density levels in soil and authorities say there's no monetary value for such a device on the black market.

"Someone came up on this thing,” said Welling.   “It was in a bright yellow box and probably thought it was worth a lot, but the reality is these devices cost a few thousand and there's not a market to sell them on the street. You have to have the licensing number to use it."

Late Wednesday Dinwiddie deputies said they had credible information suggesting the density meter was seen at the intersection of Olgers Road and Route 460 after apparently falling  from a small white pick-up truck.

Officials searched the area but had no luck finding it. If you see the yellow case, call 911.

Immediately notify your local police or sheriff’s department and the VDH Office of Radiological Health at 804-864-8150 during business hours or the Virginia Emergency Operations Center at 804-674-2400 during non-business hours.

The gauge is yellow with a chrome handle and is approximately 10 inches wide and 15 inches long. The gauge is in a yellow case and is a Troxler model 3411, serial number 9386.