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BCSO responds to low-level radiation incident
BCSO Lt. Steve Billinger checks the scene of a radiation incident with a Geiger counter to attempt to locate a radioactive portion of a testing instrument broken during road construction at the junction of U.S. 56 and K-156 east of Great Bend Tuesday morning.

The Barton County Sheriff’s Office responded Tuesday morning to a report of a low-level radiation incident in connection with road construction work east of Great Bend.

According to Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir, at about 8:15 a.m. Tuesday, BCSO was notified of a potential radiation incident just east of the City of Great Bend at the junction of US 56 and K-156. A sub-contractor working for the Kansas Department of Transportation was just north of the junction on K-156 testing the density of newly-laid asphalt with a device that contained a radioactive source. 

While the instrument was sitting on the roadway, a truck tractor and trailer ran over the tool, and several cars struck it, as well. Afterwards, the part of the instrument containing the radioactive pellet was determined to be missing. Bellendir said evidence initially suggested it lodged in part of one of the vehicles and was no longer at the scene.

BCSO responded with a geiger counter and determined there was very low-level radiation in the parts remaining at the scene, as would be expected. Members of the BCSO, the Great Bend Fire Department and Hazmat Response Inc., began searching for the missing piece of the equipment that contained the radioactive source. It was feared the piece may have become lodged in one of the vehicles and was out of the area. 

After about an hour, however, personnel located the missing piece about a half-mile from the scene. It was checked with a geiger counter to make sure that the radioactive source inside had not been exposed. It appeared to be intact. The remains of the instrument were returned to the subcontractor for disposal.

Bellendir said it appears there was no threat to the public in connection with the incident.