Uranium scare forces evacuation at South Florida airport

A hazardous material team checks out readings from a drum. CBS Miami

Updated 4:33 p.m. ET

A section of Opa-locka Executive Airport was temporarily sealed off Thursday after reports of a uranium spill in a 55-gallon drum, CBS Miami reports.

"We always have to assume the worst in these types of situations. We don't know the quantity, the level of radiation released," said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue spokesman Lt. Arnold Piedrahita.

A Miami-Dade Fire Rescue hazardous materials team checked out the material inside the drum which was sitting by a fence in a section of the airport used for planes that are being scrapped.

Inside the drum, the hazmat workers found plane parts laced with depleted uranium.

"Aircraft counterbalances, this is common material used to produce these parts. However they're supposed to be disposed of in a certain manner, they're not just supposed to be discarded in some sort of parts yard," said Piedrahita.

Airport officials said parts came from a DC-10 plane from now defunct Arrow Cargo which was being dismantled. A contractor working to take the jet apart opened the drum not realizing what was inside.

"It's a radioactive substance no one wants to be exposed to, radiation it's not something you want to be exposed to, it can affect your bodily functions," said Piedrahita.

People can be exposed to radiation from depleted uranium by eating, drinking, and breathing it or through contact with the skin.

Readings for possible uranium contamination were also taken from other airplane parts in the surrounding area. In the end, it turned out to be 'not hazardous'.

"The radiation being excreted by these uranium parts was at same level of radiation you receive from a normal environment," said Piedrahita.

None the less, the Environmental Protection Agency has been contacted.

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