UPPER DARBY — The Delaware County Certified Hazardous Materials Response Team made an unusual visit to a West Chester Pike halfway house Monday afternoon after a resident there received an order of uranium through the mail.
“Just another day in Delco,” said Delaware County Emergency Services Director Tim Boyce, whose office oversees the Hazmat team.
Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said the unidentified resident of Harwood House at 9200 West Chester Pike had ordered two grams of powdered uranium for $12 from United Nuclear Scientific Equipment and Supplies in Michigan.
Chitwood said the uranium was in a powder form and was sealed inside a glass vial within a cardboard box when it was delivered to Harwood House about 3 p.m. The halfway house screens all incoming packages and detected the powder, he said, at which point police and fire fighters were called to the scene.
“Our team did respond with our radiation meters and confirmed the substance was Uranium 238, which is a medical grade – a very low-yield material and can be shipped through the mail,” said Boyce.
Chitwood said United Nuclear confirmed the shipment and the small amount of the substance posed no health threat. The uranium could safely be disposed of in the trash, he said.
There was no indication why the occupant, who remains at the halfway house, would want the uranium and a person answering the phone at Harwood House Tuesday said she could not comment about residents.
Harwood House is a community-based residential treatment program for adult men dealing with substance-use disorders and co-occurring disorders.
Chitwood said the FBI was notified, but there are no charges pending, as the shipment was legal. Those types of substances are not allowed to be possessed by Harwood House occupants, however, according to Chitwood.
“Apparently it was not a danger to anybody because of the amount,” he said. “It’s certainly not any violation here with us.”
Boyce said the Hazmat team collected the sample but was unsure Tuesday whether it would be returned to United Scientific or disposed of. He congratulated the team – which is approaching a one-year anniversary on Nov. 1 – for its handling of the situation, as well as the halfway house and other emergency personnel.
“It was a good run for our team,” he said. “It definitely was an unusual event for us to respond to. We often train for radiological devices encountered in terror – that is more common – but for the product to show up at a facility like that in the mail was a little bit of a surprise.
“But everyone handled it well,” Boyce added. “We want people to take it sincerely, and there’s never a harm in asking for the authorities to come check it and make sure it’s safe.”