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Sweep of EWU campus uncovers uranium in science building

Officials at Eastern Washington University are investigating whether there’s any fallout for workers who may have spent years around uranium left unprotected in a campus storage room.

EWU workers found the rocks a week ago as part of a sweep of the campus by the new manager of environmental health and safety, Peter Batsakis. There were five drawers labeled as uranium, full of the small rocks in a first-floor storage area in the science building, Batsakis said.

“No one really knows where they came from,” he said. “Only that they’ve been there for many years.”

No classes were held in the storage room, and few students, faculty or staffers were exposed to the rocks on a regular basis, he said. A handful of workers are being asked to estimate how much time they spent in the room.

Once officials have that information, coupled with more specific information about the radiation levels recorded, they’ll have an idea what kind of exposure the workers have had. Batsakis said workers haven’t complained of ailments that appear related to radiation.

Uranium is a very dense metal that occurs naturally and is considered weakly radioactive.

The rocks have been removed and placed in radiation-safe storage, and the radiation levels in the room have returned to nearly normal background levels, Batsakis said.

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