Radon levels unacceptable at Upper Blue Elementary
SUMMIT COUNTY – Repeated radon testing at Upper Blue Elementary indicates the school continues to register unacceptable levels of the radioactive gas.
“It’s a concern, and we’re paying attention to it,” said Schools Superintendent Wes Smith.
A consultant has performed radon tests – on three separate occasions – at all of the district’s schools. The tests showed acceptable levels of radon at all but two of the schools, Summit Cove and Upper Blue elementary schools.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is pushed up through the soil. It releases Alpha radiation, which travels a short distance and cannot penetrate a piece of paper but can be very destructive on a molecular level. Alpha radiation would have difficulty penetrating skin and clothing, but it can be damaging if inhaled.
Summit Cove, which registered levels just slightly above acceptable, will require only minimal ventilation work to mitigate the problem, Smith said.
The “action” level for radon is 4 Pico Curies per liter (pCi/L), while “immediate action” is required for levels exceeding 100 pCi/L, according to a letter from WeeCycle Environmental Consulting Inc. Testing at Upper Blue has shown radon levels ranging from 3.5 to 41.7 pCi/L.
The school district first learned of high levels of radon at Upper Blue in 1999 and installed fans and improved the building’s ventilation system to air out the building.
Additional tests this winter and spring indicate the school still has high levels of radon, and school officials have sent out a request for proposals to resolve the problem, Smith said. Officials want to bring the radon levels down below 4 pCi/L before school starts in September.
Among the possible solutions for Upper Blue are installing pipes into the ground, which would collect the gas and bring it outside the building, or reconfiguring the ventilation system to raise the atmospheric pressure in the school (radon usually enters buildings because most buildings have lower air pressure than outdoors), Smith said.
In the worst-case scenario, which Smith said is unlikely, school officials would need to replace the building’s slab and install one which would prevent the gas from penetrating the school.
“At this point, what we’re doing is bringing the experts in to tell us what the best approach is going to be,” he said. “We have to do something, but it’s not at that point where you stop everything you’re doing and find other classroom space for the kids.”
The school board hasn’t budgeted for the construction at Upper Blue and will have to use contingency funds to pay for the work, Smith said, adding that he doesn’t know what it will cost but guesses that it might be about $100,000.
Lu Snyder can be reached
at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or
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