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Tritium Exit Signs


The PADEP, Division of Radiation Protection, recently identified a problem with tritium-powered exit signs relative to landfill disposal.  It seems the tritium (encapsulated in glass) is escaping and contaminating treated water discharges.  Being an isotope of hydrogen, the tritium becomes the hydrogen in water and cannot be separated in a realistic fashion.  For more detailed information please see the following message from a co-worker....

Has anyone dealt with this issue in the past or is able to make suggestions that would help eliminate/minimize this problem?  One concern is the problem will grow with the emphasis on low and no-energy technologies.  I am suggesting working with recyclers, green purchasing groups, and related efforts.

	...I recently gave a presentation on the subject of the improper disposal of tritium emergency exit signs and what we (DEP) can do to educate businesses and industries regarding their proper and lawful disposal. It is our opinion that these licensed radioactive devices are being improperly disposed of in solid waste landfills within the Commonwealth. Recent studies performed by our bureau indicate elevated concentrations of tritium in landfill effluents. BRP has worked with the Bureau of Air Quality, Field Services, and the Bureau of Waste Management to access all opportunities available to communicate with businesses involved with the use and transfer of these signs. I was told about your program, the Site Visit Program, last week and would like to provide you with information regarding this issue and request your programs assistance in communicating with businesses and industry regarding their responsibility for proper disposal of the tritium exit signs. We have created Fact Sheets which can be used for this purpose. If possible, please respond with your advice on how to proceed with this request. I have attached the Tritium Exit Sign Owner Responsibilities Fact Sheet for your review. Additional information can also be found on the web at <http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/deputate/airwaste/rp/Radiation_Control_Division/solidwastemonitoring/SolidWasteRadMonitoringFactSheets.htm>

Sincerely, Ric

Richard Illig
Program Specialist
PA Dept. of Environmental Protection
Office of Energy & Technology Deployment

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