hypothetical involving radioactive home hazard

Suppose I just bought an old house from an estate sale (the house was owned by a 90-year old woman who in turn inherited it from her parents). Needs a little work but a good investment. Down in the basement is a bunch of old junk some of which has been there since the early twentieth century. So I go through it all, looking for stuff which might be collectable. In the bottom of an old crate buried in one corner I find a dusty old bottle. Cleaning it off, I read the label: Radium Chloride. WTF??? I look for references online and compare to the label on the bottle. Sure damn enough, this bottle apparently contains a milligram of radium chloride. The contents glow in the dark.

I can just picture trying to call my city’s waste and disposal department:
“Solid Waste & Recycling, how may I help you?”
“Hello? Yes, I think I might have a potential hazardous waste situation here, what should I do?”
“What is the nature of the waste?”
“Radiological”


“Sir, did you say radiological waste?”
“Yes, it’s an old glass vial I found in my basement labled ‘Radium Chloride’”

So what happens next? A half-hour later, a screaming fire truck engine arrives along with a van, and a crew dressed in full hazmat suits and carrying geiger counters jump out? Do I end up owing a hundred grand in emergency disposal costs?

I’d say the first step would be to find a nearby university with a decent physics department, or a hospital with a radiological medicine department, and ask to speak to the radiation safety officer. They’ll know who to contact in the NRC, which is ultimately who would take care of it.

I’d go through the University.
Maybe this physics outreach program for teachers?
http://www.physics.umn.edu/outreach/ret/application.html

In the US, liability for disposal of radioactive waste can be split between the producer of the waste and every owner of the waste and the property on which it was stored.

However, if you’re just talking about a vial of radium, there won’t be any sirens going off. If the vial is sealed, you might even be able to sell it and make a little profit. It would only be major concern if we’re talking about finding a 55-gallon drum of radium chloride that leaked all over the basement floor and seeped into the neighborhood groundwater.

I’d give it to the local boy scout troop.

I’d call LucasArts. Sounds like you bought Maniac Mansion!

Maybe you could look up in the Minneapolis City website, under Garbage Collection/Recycling, the What to Do list, under “Radioactive Materials” – http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/solid-waste/what-to-do-R.asp#P31_582? That seems to have specific information for this situation.