Radon testing, mitigation continues at Upper Blue
BRECKENRIDGE – The high radon gas levels recorded at Upper Blue Elementary School earlier this week may be a fluke, but school officials aren’t taking any chances.
“We had to err on the side of caution,” said Mike Arnold, facilities director for the school district.
Arnold, Superintendent Lynn Spampinato and Jeff Goard, owner of the Ace Radon Co., met with about 25 of the school’s teachers, parents and staff Thursday to update them about the abnormally high test results and their efforts to reduce radon levels in the school.
Officials closed three of Upper Blue’s classrooms earlier this week, when tests recorded radon levels as high as 96 pico Curies per liter (pCi/L).
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas that comes from the natural decay of uranium found in most soils. It typically moves up from the ground into the air above. It can enter homes, schools and other buildings through cracks in the foundations. Radon often becomes trapped in buildings where it can build up.
The action level for radon is 4 (pCi/L) and immediate action is required for levels exceeding 100 pCi/L.
Radon is not electronically charged, so one likely will exhale it if it’s inhaled, Goard said. But it’s byproducts – which are electronically charged – can decay in the lungs if inhaled, increasing one’s risk of lung cancer.
A person’s risk is increased with longtime exposure to higher levels of radon, he said.
The district hired Ace Radon earlier this summer when repeated tests showed radon levels in the school ranging from 3.5 to 41.7 pCi/L. Workers installed five pipes running from the ground beneath the building’s slab out through the roof, with fans to pull the air out.
Because the first set of tests after the mitigation work showed radon levels declining, officials are puzzled with this week’s abnormally high readings.
“The last results shocked me probably more than anybody,” Goard said.
Four of the seven test canisters came back with levels higher than previous results, including readings of 44.1 and 51.4 pCi/L, Arnold said.
Officials believe there’s a chance the tests are flawed but aren’t taking any chances.
On Sunday, Ace Radon will install ventilation pipes from the outside of the building into the foundation to help facilitate the exhaust process.
Officials will use two high-tech radon monitors, which record data continuously, to help them determine the source of the problem. The monitors must run a minimum of 48 hours before the data is considered accurate, Arnold said.
In addition, they have placed 23 charcoal canisters – and will add 100 more – around the building to monitor radon levels.
The school won’t reopen the three vacated classrooms until officials are sure they are safe for students and teachers, Spampinato said.
“I’m feeling pretty confident that they’ve got it under control,” said Ann Barry, parent of a kindergartner. “(Officials have) made themselves very available for questions.”
Brian Peoples, who has children in first and third grade at Upper Blue, agreed. “I’m very confident they’re doing what needs to be done, he said.”
Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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