High radon levels reported at Blue Ridge Elementary School

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See Walla Walla School District Press Release below.

WALLA WALLA - A Walla Walla, Wash., elementary school has elevated levels of radon, the school district told its staff Tuesday afternoon. Parents will be informed this week, the district said in a handout to staff members.

Radon, a radioactive gas, was reported in Blue Ridge Elementary School at levels as much as four times as high as the acceptable levels recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency. Radon has been linked to lung cancer. Its presence poses a danger to individuals if they are exposed over a long period of time.

The district learned the results for Blue Ridge after indoor air quality testing by a consulting company.

The district said it will operate the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system for 20 hours a day, which it said will minimize the levels of radon. The district is meeting with industry professionals on Wednesday to plan and design a permanent solution.

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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