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For Release: Wednesday, April 11, 2012

DEC: Three Arrested in Connection with Illegal Disposal of Low-Level Radioactive Material

Three individuals were arrested yesterday in connection with the illegal disposal of low-level radioactive material in the Town of Halfmoon, Saratoga County, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced.

Arrested and charged with one count each of illegally disposing radioactive material (6NYCRR 380-4(1) and one count each of Operating a Solid Waste Management Facility without a Permit (ECL 27-0707(1), were:

Edward Kenelly, 76, of 7F Tupelo Dr. Clifton Park, NY
Arthur Martin, 32, of 257 Thimbleberry Rd. Malta, NY
Steven Pieniazek, 21, of 67 Jack Halloran Road Stillwater, NY

The charges are violations, punishable by up to 15 days in jail and/or a minimum fine of $1,500 and a maximum fine of $15,000 per day of violation on each count.

"The improper disposal of radioactive material is unacceptable, poses unnecessary risks to human health and the environment, and will not be tolerated," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "Fortunately, in this case, a successful and collaborative effort between state, local and federal agencies ensured the material was properly removed and never posed a threat to the public."

On February 15, an anonymous tip was called into DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch Center notifying officials that radioactive material was buried and cemented into the basement floor of 7F Tupelo Drive in the Town of Halfmoon. DEC Environmental Conservation Officers initially responded to the location to investigate the allegation. Staff from DEC's Radiation Program, the state Department of Health's Bureau of Environmental Radiation Protection and Saratoga County Emergency Management also responded.

On March 8, investigators from the Division of Law Enforcement's Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigations Unit (BECI), with assistance from DOH and the Environmental Protection Agency executed a search warrant at Mr. Kenelly's residence. The radioactive source was removed, examined and transported to a secure storage location.

A subsequent investigation by DEC revealed the source to be a low-level calibration source from Mary McClellan Hospital in Cambridge, Washington County, before the facility closed in 2003. Mr. Kenelly, a private contractor licensed to calibrate and test radiological equipment, offered to take the source from the hospital to expedite its closing. He kept it at his residence, and in July 2011, he hired Martin and Pieniazek to bury the source in the basement of his townhome.

DOH and DEC tested the residence and area for radiation levels and found no immediate health threats to the property owner or neighbors. The initial radiation level taken on the floor above the source was approximately 20 microrems per hour. A microrem is 1/1000 of a millirem, a standard used to measure potential exposure levels. The source reading equates to .02 millirems. By comparison, a normal chest x-ray is 10 millirems. Using these measurements, a person would have to lay directly on the spot continuously for about 500 hours (21 days) to receive a dosage equivalent to a chest x-ray.

All three subjects were arraigned in Halfmoon Town Court, pled not guilty and were released without bail. Their next court appearance is May 8 in Halfmoon Town Court.

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