During the examination of the background natural materials at Jana Elementary School located in suburban Florissant, Missouri, low levels of radiation were found, although there was an excess of “radioactive materials” present in nature.
Investigators from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch took 32 environmental samples in August from the school’s ventilation system, playgrounds, fields, classrooms, kitchen, and library, collecting plant and soil dust.
The school analysis also discovered thorium-230, polonium-210, and radium-226. In close proximity to the basketball courts, they discovered a level that was 12 times higher than anticipated. In samples collected from the kindergarten playground, they detected lead-210, a radioactive isotope, in quantities exceeding the expected level by more than 22 times.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that exposure to high levels of radiation can increase the risk of long-term health risks, including cancer. For instance, the CDC explains that high amounts of energy emitted by alpha particles, such as Polonium-210, can destroy or damage genetic material inside cells in the body.
Up to this point, it remains unclear who initiated and financed the research.
During World War II, as part of the Manhattan Project to create atomic weapons, nuclear waste was disposed of by weapon manufacturers near the creek close to St. Louis Lambert International Airport. The school, which caters to over 400 students, is located within the floodplain of Coldwater Creek and falls under the jurisdiction of the Hazelwood School District.
During the war, workers at the Mallinckrodt facility in downtown St. Louis extracted radium and uranium, which led to the improper handling of radioactive material. As a result, this waste was transferred to two storage sites near Coldwater Creek, thus contaminating the 19-mile tributary of the Missouri River and the surrounding areas according to the Federal Agency for Registry Disease and Toxic Substances.
CNN’s Michelle Watson and Tina Burnside are informed by Marco Kaltofen, president and primary researcher of Boston Chemical, that the Jana school, along with numerous residences, establishments, and enterprises in the vicinity, is situated adjacent to Coldwater Creek. “Regrettably, when Coldwater Creek overflows, a portion of the radioactive substance is left on the surrounding land, including the school,” he explains.
The Army Corps of Engineers has spent the last 25 years cleaning up and remediating the contaminated creek, with a projected cost of $34.55 million. The completion date for this project has been delayed until December of 2038.
Nevertheless, the Corps did not conduct any measurements outside the school or within a 300-foot radius. However, previous analyses by the Corps have also discovered radioactive contamination in the vicinity of the school, particularly at lower levels. These previous analyses were initiated in 2018.
A spokesman for the Corps said the agency would evaluate the Boston Chemical report and its methods, reports The Independent’s Louise Boyle.
On Friday, the district stated that leaders were actively discussing the implications of the findings with experts and attorneys, in order to determine how to move forward with the plans to discuss radioactive waste measurements at the Tuesday meeting of the school district’s board.
“Ensuring safety is always our highest concern,” according to the statement from the district.
Meanwhile, guardians expressed serious concerns about sending their kids to school this week.
According to Ashley Bernaugh, the head of the school’s parent-teacher association, in an interview with the Associated Press, she expressed her deep sadness. She described the feeling as a common phrase, but it truly leaves you speechless.