FLORISSANT, Mo. – The president of the Jana Elementary PTA believes we could have learned about a possible nuclear contaminated school years ago, except for what she called continued resistance from the Army Corps of Engineers.
“For all those years, they told me they didn’t have any information about Jana,” Ashley Bernaugh said. “They did have information about Jana elementary, but unfortunately, they were unwilling to share it.”
Bernaugh said she fought for years to get the government’s test results from contaminated Coldwater Creek next to the school.
“They said no,” Bernaugh said. “…that it’s up to the property owners to provide that. So I, of course, reminded them this is a public school.”
This past May, she noticed Bobcat equipment next to the school. She said it had been digging in the contaminated creek and she took pictures of how it left mud tracks back and forth from the creek to the school.
“Full of dirt,” she said, which “…sat by the corner of school where kids were going to walk by at 3 o’clock, and so I was frantically calling the Army Corps of Engineers to try to get someone to move this heavy piece of equipment before the kids came and found their new piece of playground equipment covered with radioactive dirt.”
It raised more questions about contamination possibly reaching the school. Pictures from August, obtained by FOX 2, show when private company Boston Chemical Data Corp sampled the school grounds and inside the elementary school. The company told FOX 2 that the picture of a child’s tricycle came from a storage room found to contain microscopic particles of radioactive thorium.
“It breaks my heart to know that kids have been exposed for decades to this stuff,” Christen Commuso, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, said. “It’s taken ‘til 2022 to even inform parents?”
Commuso learned in documents she requested under the Freedom of Information Act that the Army Corps of Engineers had been trying to get permission to enter Jana Elementary as far back as 2016.
In many of the documents, the Army Corps wrote what are called right-of-entry permits to the Hazelwood School District, saying they needed, “(Permission to) enter your property to perform the investigation and sampling and, if contamination is found, to perform any necessary soil removal and remediation.”
“It’s not surprising interest was shown. What’s surprising is that no one was informed about it,” Commuso said.
FOX 2 reached out to the Hazelwood School District and also to the Army Corps of Engineers for responses. Neither would answer FOX 2. The Jana Elementary PTA tonight is asking the government to collaborate with private company Boston Chemical in future efforts to get answers for families.