“Unacceptable levels” of radioactive contamination at St. Louis school, study finds

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Parents are outraged over a new study which shows “unacceptable levels” of radioactive contamination at a St. Louis elementary school. Radioactive contamination detected at Jana Elementary School’s playground measured 22 times higher than normal, according to a study commissioned for a class-action lawsuit.

The study, conducted by the Boston Chemical Data Corp, also found “unacceptable levels” in the school’s kitchen, gym and ventilation systems. When Patrice Strickland, a parent, heard about the contamination, she decided to keep her two children home to learn virtually.

“It’s overwhelming right now,” she told CBS News.

Strickland spoke at a school board meeting Tuesday night, where she said she first hear about the contamination from the news. The district apologized, and said that the elementary school will be virtual starting next Monday, Oct. 24.

“There’s a lot of things you can protect your kids from, but that felt like something I had no control. And as a parent, it’s not easy to feel like you don’t have control,” Strickland said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers informed the Hazelwood School District in January of “low-level radioactive contamination” on the banks of Coldwater Creek, which is on the school grounds. The Corps has been cleaning up nuclear waste from the creek for years. Thousands of barrels dating back to the 1940s containing radioactive waste from uranium processing for the nation’s atomic bombs were improperly stored. They contaminated the soil and Coldwater Creek.

The Corps regularly tests the creek and nearby areas, which is how it found the “low-level” contamination. But in a letter to the superintendent, it said there is no “immediate risk to human health.” The Corps told CBS News the lawsuit’s study “is not consistent with our accepted evaluation techniques and must be thoroughly vetted.”

The school building is outside the Corps’ testing boundaries, but Jana Elementary PTA president Ashley Bernaugh said the Corps has not been transparent.

“I believe sunshine is an excellent disinfectant, and so I am willing to disinfect everywhere we got to go by pulling every rug out and shaking it,” Bernaugh said. “To get to the truth. No more dirt is swept under them.”

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