UW Emergency Management

May 20, 2019

May 2, 2019 – July 2019 (Accidental Radiological Spill Forces Extended Closure of Harborview Research & Training Building)

During a planned decommissioning of a piece of medical equipment, federal cleanup contractors accidentally spilled a small amount of highly-radioactive materials inside of the Harborview Research and Training Building.  As a result and to ensure the safety of occupants and nearby personnel, the entire building was closed during the remediation and cleanup process.  A Los Angeles Times article on the vulnerability of Cesium equipment was published on December 27, 2019 indicating the extent of this national issue)  13 UW/Harborview employees, researchers, and emergency response personnel were initially exposed to the Cesium-137.  However, all were immediately evaluated and treated.  The longer-lasting impact of the full-building closure, lasting months (into 2020), directly impacted over 20 medical research labs in the 7-story building.  The total estimated federal research in this building that were at risk is estimated over $13 million.  UWEM supported the off-site response efforts by coordinating requests for resources and acting as a liaison between UW PEAT response teams and public information officials working with local media covering the incident.  More information on this incident can be found HERE online.  A 175-page independent review of the incident was published in  May 2020.  This report noted that this May 2019 “near miss” incident could have been catastrophic to the entire downtown Seattle area and faulted lax oversight by the federal contractors conducting the work.  A year later, the building remains closed and has cost over $9 million for the clean-up.