Blue Ridge Elementary School families to be notified about radon levels

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Read Walla Walla School District press release below.

WALLA WALLA — Blue Ridge Elementary School families were to be notified today that the facility has tested high for levels of radon, a carcinogen.

Blue Ridge staff members were notified Tuesday about the results, which show radon, a radioactive gas, present as much as four times the acceptable level recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency. The gas, a class A carcinogen, has been linked to lung cancer in people who are exposed to it over time.

Mark Higgins, district spokesman, said staff were notified of the air quality results Tuesday, and that Blue Ridge parents and the general public were to be notified Wednesday.

Radon was detected at the school following indoor air quality testing by a consulting company. Immediate remedies at the school, located at 1150 W. Chestnut St., include running ventilation, heating and air conditioning most of the day to lower the radon levels found in the air. District leaders are to meet with industry professionals today to discuss a permanent plan.

For more information on radon, visit www.epa.gov/radon

News Release from: Walla Walla School District #140

AIR QUALITY TEST RESULTS AT BLUE RIDGE PROMPT DISTRICT ACTION

Posted: January 20th, 2010 9:08 AM

WALLA WALLA - Walla Walla Public Schools is taking a proactive approach to addressing results from a recent air sampling test at Blue Ridge Elementary. Fulcrum Environmental Consulting recently completed an Indoor Air Quality Assessment at Blue Ridge in which radon concentrations were identified above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) benchmarks.

Fulcrum's tests showed elevated levels occurred during evening and weekends when the school's Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning system (HVAC) was not operational. The district is following the recommendation of Fulcrum Environmental Consulting to work with an industry professional to develop a long-term radon mitigation solution.

The district has already started this work. The school's HVAC is now operating 20 hours a day, seven days a week to maintain constant air flow. According to Fulcrum's assessment, radon levels at Blue Ridge are reduced while the HVAC system is operational. If the levels of Radon are minimized, Walla Walla County Health Department Director Dr. Harvey Crowder says the school is safe to continue use. Radon experts are visiting the district today to begin developing a long-term solution.

"The safety of our staff and students is our number one priority," Superintendent Dr. Rich Carter said. "We will do whatever it takes to develop a permanent solution to ensure radon levels are mitigated."

Fulcrum Environmental Consulting representatives report the increased use of the school's HVAC system will minimize Radon levels until a permanent solution is in place.

"A review of the data also suggested that further HVAC system operation would reduce the radon gas accumulation inside of the building during all periods of student and staff occupancy, including those staff that work during after school hours, before school hours and on weekends," said Ryan Mathews, Principal - Fulcrum Environmental Consulting.

The district is meeting with industry professionals today (Wednesday, January 20) to begin planning and designing a permanent solution. The district is also planning to do another round of testing to receive more specific data. This will not be a disruption to the educational setting. According to Fulcrum Environment Consulting, Blue Ridge is the most likely building in the district to have a radon gas concern.

"As a building constructed into the ground, there is a higher likelihood of radon gas infiltration than in a building constructed with a partial basement or no basement," Mathews said. "No other buildings in the district have a completely buried basement or were constructed within a soil berm as was the case with Blue Ridge."

The district will also test its other facilities which have basements as a precaution. Radon is a radioactive gas. It comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. Lung cancer is the only health effect which has been definitively linked with long-term radon exposure according to the EPA.

Yesterday afternoon Superintendent Rich Carter briefed Blue Ridge staff on the test results and the districts action plan to reduce the radon levels. Principal Kim Doepker and Preschool Director Kerri Coffman are sending a letter home to parents today and are conducting a parent meeting at the school Thursday, January 21 at 3 p.m.

For additional information, contact Communications Director Mark Higgins at 509.526.6716 or by e-mail at: mhiggins@wwps.org.
Contact Info: For additional information, contact Communications Director Mark Higgins at 509.526.6716 or by e-mail at: mhiggins@wwps.org.

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