RICHLAND, Wash. -- The Washington State Department of Health is investigating the discovery of radioactivity outside the protective packaging of a recent shipment from Hanford.

The shipment traveled a short distance from the Hanford site, down public roads, to a private contractor called Permafix.

Workers at the Permafix facility, which disassembles and repackages Hanford materials, reported the radioactive readings to the federal Department of Energy and state Departments of Health and Ecology.

The Health Department dispatched radiation physicists who confirmed the readings. A Health Department spokesman told KING 5 the radiation was discovered in a place it shouldn t be and something went wrong.

Department of Energy (DOE) officials said they are not responsible for problems found at the contractor s facility and are not responding to the incident. State Ecology officials say the case falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health.

Permafix said the public and workers were never exposed and there was no environmental damage. All the agencies said Permafix made the appropriate notifications.

The watchdog group Hanford Challenge, which uncovered documents about the incident, told KING 5 it was a dangerous situation that put the public and workers at risk. Executive Director Tom Carpenter said DOE cannot allow its contractors to cut corners when transporting plutonium and other dangerous materials just to save money.

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