Firm fined by NRC over gauge use

July 07, 1997


Staff Writer

A Hagerstown firm has been fined $2,750 for failing to obtain permission to use a gauge containing radioactive material outside Maryland, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

"This is not a case where there was imminent danger to health and public safety," said Diane Screnci, spokeswoman for the federal agency that regulates the use of certain nuclear materials.

Hagerstown Construction Services Inc. on Maryland Avenue used the gauges in Pennsylvania and West Virginia numerous times between July 1996 and April 11, 1997, according to a release from the agency.


The firm has a license to use the gauges in Maryland, but failed to file the paperwork needed for permission to use them in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, according to the agency. That paperwork would have cost $1,100 for one year, Screnci said.

"It's strictly a stupid mistake," said John L. Herbert Sr., owner and president of Hagerstown Construction Services. "I didn't break the law intentionally."

A mistake was discovered after a few days of work when officials with a company client, Rust Environmental, asked whether the firm had the required paperwork, Herbert said.

Hagerstown Construction was using the gauges to test the density of soil for a new cell Rust Environmental was building for a landfill in Franklin County, Pa., he said.

When Herbert reported the Pennsylvania violation, he said he told the agency he also had used the gauge in West Virginia.

Herbert said he plans to appeal the fine and ask that it be suspended.

"I did not do anything blatantly. It's going to cost me a lot of money for those mistakes," he said.

The firm had gotten permission in 1993 to use the gauges in Somerset, Pa., for a project, officials said.

The agency also cited the company for two other alleged violations, but didn't fine the firm, according to the agency.

Those violations were for a radioactive materials package in an "impaired condition" and the failure to properly mark a transport package, the agency alleged.

There were several cracks in a gauge's casing, but not in the casing for the cesium - the radioactive material, according to Herbert and Screnci.

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