Blue Ridge Elementary School radon test results due this week

The carcinogenic gas was found at Blue Ridge Elementary School, which since has run its HVAC system nearly around the clock.

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WALLA WALLA -- New test results are expected this week to show whether indoor air-quality at Blue Ridge Elementary remains safe following the recent detection of radon at high levels, according to a district news release.

Last week, Blue Ridge staff and families were notified of test results inside the school building that show radon, a carcinogenic radioactive gas, to be present in the air at levels above those set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The district brought in Fulcrum Environmental Consulting to conduct air-quality assessments at the school following requests from school staff to have the indoor air evaluated.

Fulcrum's results showed radon at high levels, particularly present in the building at night when the school's heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system was not operating.

Radon comes from the decay of uranium naturally occurring in soil. It is considered a Class A carcinogen that is known to cause lung cancer in people exposed to it over time.

On Thursday, Radon experts met with Blue Ridge parents to go over the air-quality results and answer questions. According to the news release, Ryan Matthews of Fulcrum Environmental Consulting and Michael Brennan, a radiation health physicist with the Washington State Department of Health Offices, led the parent meeting. They reported that the levels found in the report are far from those needed to recommend an evacuation of the school, according to the release.

Walla Walla County Health Department Director Harvey Crowder has also said the school is safe to continue use.

As a preliminary step, Fulcrum recommended the district operate Blue Ridge's HVAC system 20 hours a day, seven days a week, to keep radon concentrations low until a more permanent solution is in place.

The district has also committed to contracting with a mechanical engineering firm to test and balance the school's HVAC system, now working overtime, with that work expected to start this week, according to the release.

Meanwhile, the district has started working with Advanced Radon Technologies of Spokane to develop and eventually implement a long-term plan. The district has also announced additional plans to test for radon at other district facilities that have basements, which would be the most likely to have the gas present in the air.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/schoolhousemissives.

EPA radon information: epa.gov/radon.

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