RADIOACTIVE: Parents demand answers after discovery of toxic waste on elementary school grounds
Toxic waste testing at a Missouri elementary school reveals levels almost two dozen times the legal limit. Elevated levels of radioactive waste were discovered on the kindergarten playground of Jana Elementary School and parents want answers. According to a study conducted by the Boston Chemical Data Corporation, “Testing at the Jana school was that levels of the radioactive isotope lead-210 found in school grounds were entirely unacceptable.”
Compiled from data taken from soil and plant samples taken at Jana, multiple deaths and illnesses in the area have raised concerns if there’s a link to the toxic materials.
According to the report:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Army Corps”) documents recently obtained by the Missouri Coalition for the Environment through a Freedom of Information Act request reveal the presence of elevated amounts of radionuclides on and under the grounds of the Jana Elementary School in Hazelwood, MO. These radionuclides include isotopes of both radium and thorium. Based upon the elevated values of radium and thorium encountered at the Jana Elementary School, additional testing was performed by Boston Chemical Data Corp.
Testing shows the nature of the radioactive material at the school is consistent with the radioactive legacy uranium processing wastes notoriously found in the heavily contaminated Coldwater Creek in North St. Louis, County, Missouri. According to CNN:
“The Jana School, like many homes, institutions, and businesses in the area, borders Coldwater Creek. This waterway has been contaminated by leaking radioactive wastes from disposal that began shortly after World War II and is not yet cleaned up,” said the study’s author Marco Kaltofen.
“The wastes in the creek come from residues of the Manhattan Engineering District Project. Many properties in this area get tested with some regularity,” Kaltofen told CNN. “Unfortunately, when Coldwater Creek floods its banks, some of that radioactive material is deposited on neighboring land, such as the school.”
Parents, school officials, and environmental advocates are alarmed by the discovery.
“For it to be on a school playground — this is the unimaginable,” said Karen Nickel, a co-founder of Just Moms STL, a local environmental advocacy group. “There are no safe levels of any radioactive materials, in my mind, that these children should be exposed to,” NBC News reported.
Hazelwood School District parents of the students affected voiced their frustrations at a meeting with the school board on Tuesday. President Betsy Rachel, who announced the district’s plans to go remote, told the anxious parents “The administration will move forward with Jana Elementary converting to all virtual instruction.
The lack of urgency and communication was a source of contention for the parents. “The very first place I heard about it was on the news. In the news statement, they said we were notified, and they weren’t,” Patrice Strickland, a parent, said.
“In August, after bringing you this news, you all decided not to communicate this to our community…I did…our PTA did,” PTA President Ashley Bernaugh told the board.
The Army Corps of Engineers uncovered 84 areas with excess levels of radioactive materials, stemming from research going back to 2018 when radioactive thorium was first discovered in the area. It wouldn’t be until subsequent testing in 2019, 2020, and 2021, that the Corp alerted the superintendent of Hazelwood School District in January of this year as to the findings.
Homes on Moule Drive – bordering Coldwater Creek and Jana School – were tested, unveiling high contents of metallic thorium (used in the making of atomic bombs), and nuclear waste. According to Boston Chemical Data Corp., “Inhaling, ingesting or even dermal (skin) contact with these radioactive materials found inside the home can cause significant injury to humans.”
Significant cleanup is necessary to insure a safe and healthy environment for the students and faculty at Jana Elementary School, and residents in the surrounding area. But failure to stem the spread of the toxic waste by flooding from Coldwater Creek will likely render any mitigating efforts moot.
Dust particles collected from inside Jana School revealed concentrated radioactive thorium – some of the highest levels in North St. Louis County.
A few parents have plans to move. One father, identified only as Johnson, told NBC 5 On Your Side, “I’m actually selling my house on Friday,” he said. Johnson and his family live less than a mile from Jana Elementary School. “I have four daughters under the age of 13 that have all lived in that area, and gone to school there,” he said.
Read the entire report here.
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