Dangerous levels of radioactive waste detected at Missouri elementary school

"The effect of these toxins is cumulative," said Christen Commuso of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

A report released by a group of environmental investigation consultants revealed “elevated” amounts of radioactive waste at a St. Louis, Missouri elementary school in an area that was used to produce bombs during World War II.

Boston Chemical Data Corp. confirmed these findings according to samples retrieved in August, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Jana Elementary School is located nearby Coldwater Creek, which was discovered to have been contaminated during the war by nuclear waste from bomb manufacturing.

Samples were taken in August from the school’s library, classrooms, kitchen, playgrounds and fields.

“I was heartbroken,” Ashley Bernaugh, president of the school’s parent-teacher association, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It sounds so chiché, but it takes your breath from you.”

According to the report, further exposure could endanger students and staff. “The radioactive wastes at the Jana School and other North St. Louis County sites are rich in thorium-230, a radioactive isotope that emits highly damaging radiation,” the report reads. “A significant remedial program will be required to bring conditions at the school in line with expectations.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers previously conducted tests in 2018 that also revealed contamination, but their samples were collected outside the school.


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Christen Commuso of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment submitted a Freedom of Information Act request in the spring and shared the report with the Hazelwood School District’s school board.

“I wouldn’t want my child in this school,” she said in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The effect of these toxins is cumulative.”

The school district released a statement notifying families that it will determine its next steps in consultation with experts and legal counsel. But the school, because of its proximity to the polluted river, could be recontaminated in the future, the report warns.

“Remedial measures are appropriate to reduce exposures to radioactive materials for users of the school building and grounds but are complicated by the potential for recontamination due to flooding of the contaminated Coldwater Creek,” it reads.

Micah Ward
Micah Wardhttp://districtadministration.com
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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