Ford pays the price for losing its polonium

This week, Ford was fined £42,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £3,959 following a prosecution by the UK Environment Agency under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993.

This week, the Ford Motor Company was fined £42,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £3,959 following a prosecution by the UK Environment Agency Anglian Region under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993.

According to the agency, Ford appeared before Grays Magistrates Court on March 26 2003. It pleaded guilty to two offences relating to the loss of a radioactive source, a paint spray ‘stat-attack’ gun containing polonium 210, from Aveley Paint Shop, Arisdale Avenue, South Ockenden, Essex on or about January 24 2002. The company also pleaded guilty to failing to report the loss of the radioactive source to either the Environment Agency or the Police.

The Court heard that on January 24 2002, the paint sprayers employed by Ford at their Arisdale Avenue site discovered that the stat-attack refinishing gun had gone missing, and an initial search of the paint shop revealed nothing. The following day, the paint sprayers reported the loss and a further search made. AEA Technology made a routine visit to the premises to replace the radioactive source, but this visit was not instigated by Ford. AEA Technology advised the company that they should inform the Environment Agency regarding the loss of the radioactive source.

Eventually, on February 11 2002, the incident was finally reported to the Agency. Following this report, two members of the Agency’s Radioactive Substances Regulation team visited the Aveley plant on 13 November 2002 with the intention of investigating the loss.

Witness statements collected from the paint shop staff indicated that there was no adequate control procedure as regards to security of the radioactive source on a day-to-day basis. Having discovered that the source was missing, only a cursory search took place and the company did not have any emergency plan in place to retain or recall waste.

David Howard, Environment Agency Officer, said of the case, ‘This incident could have been avoided had appropriate procedures been in place. It is disappointing that the management failed to adhere to current legislation and to understand the effects that their neglect can have on the surrounding environment.’

On the web