Texans can breathe easier: the radioactive waste Halliburton fracking surveyors lost last month has finally been found.
The United Arab Emirates-based oil services company told reporters this weekend that an oilfield worker found the rod of americium-241/beryllium alongside a highway near Pecos, Texas.
Halliburton reported it missing on September 11, and members of the Texas National Guard were ultimately called up to aid their search. Halliburton said it even deployed vehicles fitted with radiation detection equipment, but found nothing on three sweeps of the area.
Americium-241/beryllium is used for a variety of industrial and medical purposes, and in this case was needed for equipment used to identify potential sites for natural gas drilling. It is a "Category 3" radioactive substance, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"Category 3 sources, if not safely managed or securely protected, could cause permanent injury to a person who handled them, or were otherwise in contact with them, for some hours," the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) explained. "It could possibly -- although it is unlikely -- be fatal to be close to this amount of unshielded radioactive material for a period of days to weeks."
Individuals who swallow or inhale contaminated particulate matter experience a heightened risk for some types of cancer. Though the substances are relatively common in more advanced technology, including smoke detectors, the quantity misplaced by Halliburton workers was cause for serious concern.
Thankfully, the Midland County Sheriff's Department said that an oilfield worker spotted the radioactive rod on the ground near a highway on Friday and immediately called police. The worker recognized it thanks to fliers passed out with photos of the device.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said that an investigation into the rod's disappearance did not find evidence of any criminal activity. It was the first such incident in the last five years, according to the NRC.
It's not the first time Halliburton, which was once headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney, has been accused of putting public safety at risk.
After the Deepwater Horizon disaster triggered the largest accidental oil spill in human history, investigators for President Barack Obama's oil spill commission said that Halliburton's cement seals around the well cap failed numerous safety tests. That should have raised questions, but the commission said that the company did not share their results with rig operator BP. Both companies have sued one another over the incident, and last December BP accused Halliburton of destroying evidence related to the case.
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