Contaminated clock sites in Waterbury, Thomaston

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — They were once proud places that put clock making on the map in Waterbury and Thomaston. But now, according to testing and a new report out by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, parts of the old Waterbury Clock Company complex and parts of the Seth Thomas Building in Thomaston are contaminated with levels of radium that could be cause for concern.

“It sounds scary when you hear that they test for something and it could be a harmful substance for people,” said Meghan Dwyer, head softball coach for Holy Cross High School in Waterbury.

Her team uses part of the Seth Thomas Building to practice indoors when it rains outside. The old building is now re-purposed to contain several businesses — like the one the softball team is using.

According to a report by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission — it did not find anything that exceeded its public dose limit of radium based on current use of the facility — meaning the players are safe.

So are workers and staff at New Opportunities, Inc., which is based inside the old Waterbury Clock Company complex.

“The report says that we can keep operating the building the way we’re operating it and that there was no immediate health risk to anyone.” said Toni Hirst, Chief Administrative Officer of New Opportunities, Inc.

New Opportunities Inc is an agency that helps low income people.

The report from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says levels found in two parts of her building would be dangerous if people are exposed more than eight hours a day over an entire year. Toni schedules shifts and programs to make sure exposure is under 8 hours in those parts of the building.
Toni says the issues in the report are actually things they’ve been addressing for quite a while now.

“This really was a follow-up to a study that was done in 1998,” she said. “So, there was really no new news to us as a result of the report being issued.”

Radium was used to make clock dials glow. It’s unclear how much exposure can impact your health. A spokeswoman with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says extreme health effects can be linked to anemia, cataracts, cancer and even death — for people who ingest it.

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