FLORISSANT, Mo. – Big questions remain after differing reports of possible radioactive contamination at Jana Elementary School.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Hazelwood School Board, district officials heard from the private company that reported high levels of contamination just weeks ago. That was followed by a bombshell report from a third party saying its analysis shows Jana is as “radiologically safe” as any other school.
The meeting comes a week after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers considered the school safe from radioactive contamination. But a week prior to that, a Boston Chemical Data Corp. report showed elevated levels of contamination at Jana.
A representative from Boston Chemical Data went before the school board to give numbers and background information about how they test. A representative from the Environmental Protection Agency was also present.
The Boston Chemical rep said they found Pb-210, a radioactive isotope of lead, and dangerous thorium particles in nearby Coldwater Creek. They also found Pb-210 on Jana school grounds.
Their findings differ from those of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who deemed the school safe.
The Boston Chemical Data report found radioactive contamination at the school at much higher levels than expected. In one case, 22 times above normal levels.
Dr. Marco Keltofen, who performed the sampling and wrote the Boston Chemical Data report, said they found more than 400 potentially active microparticles.
“Unfortunately, five of the seven worst or highest results that we got for radioactivity from these microparticles came from either the Jana School itself or from the neighborhood around the Jana School,” he said.
Keltofen added that his group tested for many more radioactive isotopes than the Corps did, and that was where the elevated radioactive contamination was discovered. The Corps of Engineers told school district leaders that testing found no radioactive contamination beyond what occurs naturally in the environment.
With those conflicting reports, the Hazelwood School District commissioned a third investigation on potential contamination. This time, from SCI Engineering of St. Charles.
Jessica Keeven, a representative of SCI Engineering, said material from radioactive decay is present everywhere in our day-to-day lives, and the material found at Jana Elementary is no different.
SCI’s report concluded, “From a radiological standpoint, Jana Elementary is as safe as any other school.”
For his part, Keltofen said Boston Chemical’s study points to the creek as the source for the radioactive material present at the school, whereas analysis from the Corps and SCI indicate the material is naturally occurring.
The Army Corps of Engineers will share its test results with the community at a town hall on Thursday. That meeting will take place at Florissant Municipal Court from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.