United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

EA-97-042 - Geomechanics, Inc.

April 8, 1997

EA 97-042

Mr. Walter M. Lorence
Vice President and RSO
Geomechanics, Incorporated
600 Munir Drive
Post Office Box 386
Elizabeth, Pennsylvania 15037

SUBJECT:  NOTICE OF VIOLATION 
          (NRC Inspection Report No. 030-12568/97-001)

Dear Mr. Lorence:

This refers to the NRC inspection conducted on January 21, 1997, at the above address in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, the findings of which were discussed with you during an exit meeting on January 29, 1997. The inspection was conducted to determine the circumstances associated with an event which you reported to the NRC Headquarters Operations Officer on January 11, 1997 involving a construction vehicle running over and damaging a portable nuclear moisture/density gauge at a temporary jobsite in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on that date. During the inspection, violations of NRC requirements were identified, as described in the NRC inspection report transmitted with our letter, dated February 4, 1997. In the February 4, 1997, letter, the NRC provided you an opportunity to either respond in writing to the apparent violations addressed in the inspection report or request a predecisional enforcement conference. You responded to the apparent violations in a March 28, 1997 letter to the NRC.

Based on the information developed during the inspection and the information you provided in your March 28, 1997 response, the NRC has determined that violations of NRC requirements occurred. The violations are cited in the enclosed Notice of Violation (Notice) and the circumstances surrounding the violations are described in detail in the subject inspection report. The most significant violation (Violation A in the enclosed Notice), involves the failure to control and maintain constant surveillance of licensed material not in storage at an unrestricted area at the temporary jobsite. This failure contributed to the gauge, which contained 8 millicuries of cesium-137 and 40 millicuries of americium-241, being run over by a construction vehicle and damaged. Specifically, the technician who was using the gauge for compaction measurements at the jobsite, left the gauge unattended to go move his private vehicle which was located about 200 feet from the area where the gauge was located. Although the technician secured the gauge and was away from it for only a short time, the gauge was nonetheless run over by a construction vehicle, resulting in elevated radiation levels in the immediate vicinity.

The NRC recognizes that the technician subsequently acted properly in not leaving the vicinity of the damaged gauge and ensuring the RSO was contacted. Also, a health physics contractor was promptly contacted and he performed surveys of the damaged gauge. The contractor determined that the shielding was compromised, and he secured the gauge and transferred it back to your facility where it was placed in a container with additional shielding. Nonetheless, this violation represents a significant regulatory concern because the failure to maintain appropriate security of material resulted in the damage to the gauge, and had the damage been more severe, could have caused elevated exposures to the technician and others. The violation is classified in accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions" (Enforcement Policy), NUREG-1600, at Severity Level III.

In accordance with the Enforcement Policy, a base civil penalty in the amount of $2,750 is considered for a Severity Level III violation. Because your facility has not been the subject of an escalated enforcement action within the last two years, the NRC considered whether credit was warranted for Corrective Action in accordance with the civil penalty assessment process in Section VI.B.2 of the Enforcement Policy. Credit for corrective actions is warranted because your corrective actions were both prompt and comprehensive. These actions, which were described in your letter to the NRC, included: (1) conduct of in-house training sessions with all gauge operators within the week following the event; (2) conduct of an unannounced inspection of a gauge operator on February 4, 1997; (3) conduct of additional training sessions on January 21, 1997 and February 15, 1997; and (4) plans to prepare and distribute to all users a company enforcement policy by May 31, 1997.

Therefore, to encourage prompt and comprehensive correction of violations, I have been authorized not to propose a civil penalty in this case. However, similar violations in the future could result in further escalated enforcement action.

In addition to Violation A, four other violations of NRC requirements were also identified. These violations (Violations B, C, D.1, & D.2 in the Notice) involve (1) failure of the Radiation Safety Officer to designate individuals authorized to use licensed material without supervision in writing; (2) failure of the license to provide hazardous materials training to all hazmat employees involved in the transportation of hazardous materials on public highways; (3) failure to perform physical inventories of all of the licensed material in your possession; and (4) failure to complete shipping papers with all of the required information. These violations are each classified individually at Severity Level IV.

The NRC has concluded that information regarding the reasons for the violations, the corrective actions taken and planned to correct the violations and prevent recurrence, and the date when full compliance will be achieved is already adequately addressed on the docket in your March 28, 1997 letter to the NRC. Therefore, you are not required to respond to this letter unless the description therein does not accurately reflect your corrective actions or your position. In that case, or if you choose to provide additional information, you should follow the instructions specified in the enclosed Notice.

In accordance with 10 CFR 2.790 of the NRC's "Rules of Practice," a copy of this letter and its enclosure, will be placed in the NRC Public Document Room (PDR).

                            Sincerely, 

                            ORIGINAL SIGNED BY
                            WILLIAM L. AXELSON FOR

                            Hubert J. Miller
                            Regional Administrator

Docket No. 030-12568
License No. 37-17332-01

Enclosure: Notice of Violation

cc w/encl:
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania


NOTICE OF VIOLATION
Geomechanics, Incorporate                                   Docket No. 030-12568
Elizabeth, Pennsylvania                                     License No. 37-17332-01
                                                            EA 97-042

During an NRC inspection conducted on January 21, 1997, for which an exit meeting was held on January 29, 1997, violations of NRC requirements were identified. In accordance with the "General Statement of Policy and Procedure for NRC Enforcement Actions," (Enforcement Policy) NUREG-1600, the violations are listed below:

A. 10 CFR 20.1801 requires that the licensee secure from unauthorized removal or access licensed materials that are stored in controlled or unrestricted areas. 10 CFR 20.1802 requires that the licensee control and maintain constant surveillance of licensed material that is in a controlled or unrestricted area and that is not in storage. As defined in 10 CFR 20.1003, controlled area means an area, outside of a restricted area but inside the site boundary, access to which can be limited by the licensee for any reason; and unrestricted area means an area, access to which is neither limited nor controlled by the licensee.

Contrary to the above, at approximately 2:30 p.m. on January 11, 1997, the licensee did not secure from unauthorized removal or limit access to licensed material at a temporary jobsite in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, an unrestricted area, nor did the licensee control and maintain constant surveillance of this licensed material. Specifically, the technician who was using a moisture density gauge (containing 8 millicuries of cesium-137 and 40 millicuries of americium-241) for compaction measurements at the jobsite, left the gauge unattended for a short period to go move his private vehicle which was located about 200 feet from the area being tested. During the time that the technician was away from the gauge, the gauge was damaged when it was run over by a construction vehicle. (01013)

This is a Severity Level III violation (Supplements IV and VI).

B. Condition 11.A. of the license requires that the licensee maintain a record signed by the Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) designating those individuals authorized to use licensed material.

Contrary to the above, as of January 27, 1997, whenever an authorized user attended a manufacturer's training course, the licensee no longer maintained the records signed by the RSO designating the individual as authorized to use licensed material. (02014)

This is a Severity Level IV Violation (Supplement VI)

C. Condition 15 of the license requires that the licensee perform physical inventories every six months of all licensed material possessed by the licensee.

Contrary to the above, as of January 27, 1997, the licensee failed to include in the physical inventory all material possessed by the licensee. Specifically, the licensee received a Troxler portable moisture/density gauge containing 8 millicuries of cesium-137 and 40 millicuries of americium-241 from Labelle Processing in May 1996, and the licensee did not include this gauge in any subsequent physical inventory. (03014)

This is a Severity Level IV Violation (Supplement VI)

D. 10 CFR 71.5(a) requires, in part, that each licensee who transports licensed material outside of the site of usage, as specified in the NRC license, or where transport is on public highways, comply with the applicable requirements of the Department of Transportation regulations in 49 CFR Parts 170 through 189 appropriate to the mode of transport.

Pursuant to 49 CFR 172.101, radioactive material is classified as a hazardous material.

1. 49 CFR 172.702(a) requires that hazmat employers ensure that each of its hazmat employees is trained in accordance with the prescribed requirements by 49 CFR Part 122, Subpart H.

Contrary to the above, as of January 21, 1997, the licensee (i.e., the hazmat employer) did not ensure that each of its hazmat employees was trained in accordance with the requirements prescribed in Subpart H. Specifically, those individuals who only received the licensee's in-house training had not received all of the training required by Subpart H. (04014)

This is a Severity Level IV Violation (Supplement VI)

2. 49 CFR 172.200 requires that licensee complete shipping papers with the required information.

Contrary to the above, as of January 27, 1997, the licensee did not fully complete shipping papers with the information required by 49 CFR 172.203(c). Specifically, although required, the shipping papers for the January 15, 1997 shipment of the damaged gauge (containing 8 millicuries of cesium-137 and 40 millicuries of americium-241) did not contain the designation "RQ". (This is a repeat violation.) (05014)

This is a Severity Level IV Violation (Supplement VI)

The NRC has concluded that information regarding the reason for the violations, the corrective actions taken and planned to correct the violations and prevent recurrence, and the date when full compliance will be achieved is already adequately addressed on the docket in the licensee's March 28, 1997 letter to the NRC. However, you are required to submit a written statement or explanation pursuant to 10 CFR 2.201 if the description therein does not accurately reflect your corrective actions or your position. In that case, or if you choose to respond, clearly mark your response as a "Reply to a Notice of Violation," and send it to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ATTN:  Document Control Desk, Washington, D.C. 20555 with a copy to the Regional Administrator, Region 1, and a copy to the NRC Resident Inspector at the facility that is the subject of this Notice, within 30 days of the date of the letter transmitting this Notice of Violation (Notice).

Dated at King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
this 8th day of April 1997

 

 

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