Environmental scientists from a chemical data corporation said last week they found excess levels of radioactive waste at a Missouri elementary school where a World War II-era factory that produced nuclear bombs once stood.
Boston Chemical Data Corp. recently published a report that found samples taken in August of “dangerous” alpha-radiation levels emitting co-mingled amounts of radium and thorium on the Jana Elementary School site in Florissant, Missouri. Officials collected samples from classrooms, the kitchen, and the library. Other samples came from outside in the fields and playgrounds.
“Radiological contamination in and around Coldwater Creek, prior to remediation activities, could have increased the risk of some types of cancer in people who played or lived there,” according to the report.
Bordering two sides of the school runs Coldwater Creek, which has uranium processing residues contaminating the water flow. Toxic waste polluted the creek after officials from the Manhattan Project extracted the material to develop atomic weapons in the 1940s under the Manhattan Project, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
For the last 20 years, The United States Army Corps of Engineers have been cleaning up the creek. Four years ago, officials first detected radioactive waste near the school and confirmed the results in the following years. However, when testing for contamination levels, the Army Corp did not search more than six feet below ground or within 300 feet of the elementary school.
Christen Commuso with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment obtained the Army Corps’ report through a Freedom of Information Act request and showed the results to the elementary school’s board of supervisors.
“I wouldn’t want my child in this school,” Commuso said, according to The Hill. “The effect of these toxins is cumulative.”
Officials from Boston Chemical reported the Army Corps’ tests were “incomplete and inadequate” due to no samples collected from the school building and surface soils immediately surrounding the area.
Through Boston Chemical’s testing, the corporation found levels “far in excess” of radioactive isotope lead-210, polonium, radium, and other toxins. According to the report, inhaling or ingesting such materials could result in significant injury.
“Given that radiological contamination related to these contaminants in the creek has been found in both the indoor (dust) and outdoor (soil) environments at the Jana School, a significant remedial program will be required to bring conditions at the school in line with expectations,” the report concluded.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports Boston Chemical did not disclose how the study was requested or funded.
Ashley Bernaugh, president of the Jana parent-teacher association, has a son who attends Jana Elementary School.
“I was heartbroken,” Bernaugh said, according to The Hill. “It sounds so cliché, but it takes your breath from you.”
CNN reports the school has approximately 400 other students.
School officials told The Daily Mail that “safety is always our top priority,” adding they would discuss the report’s implications and consult with attorneys and experts about what steps to take next.
The Hazelwood School District Board of Education officials are scheduled to meet in closed session on Tuesday.