Radioactive waste found in Missouri elementary school

Florissant, Missouri - A new report by environmental investigation consultants confirms that there is significant radioactive contamination at an elementary school in suburban St. Louis, where nuclear weapons were produced during World War II.

The contamination found at the school can be traced to waste from the production of nuclear weapons during World War II (stock image).
The contamination found at the school can be traced to waste from the production of nuclear weapons during World War II (stock image).  © 123rf/vampy1

Samples collected from soil, dust, and plants at Jana Elementary School in the Hazelwood School District in Florissant, Missouri, contained radioactive waste with up to 22 times the expected level, per a recent report by the Boston Chemical Data Corp.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, previous testing by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 2018 also revealed radioactive contamination in the area, but they didn't use any samples from within 300 feet of the school grounds or from inside the buildings.

The school was built in the flood plain of Coldwater Creek, which was contaminated by waste from nuclear bombs manufactured during World War II. Per the Associated Press, the radioactive waste was dumped near the St. Louis Lambert International Airport, next to the creek that flows to the Missouri River. The clean-up has been going on for more than 20 years.

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The new report confirmed that levels of the radioactive isotope lead-210, polonium, radium, and other toxins were found "far in excess of the natural background." Per the report, the inhalation or ingestion of these radioactive materials can cause significant damage.

"A significant remedial program will be required to bring conditions at the school in line with expectations," the report said.

Jana elementary parents are "heartbroken"

Nuclear waste from a WWII production plant was dumped next to St. Louis' Lambert International Airport (stock image).
Nuclear waste from a WWII production plant was dumped next to St. Louis' Lambert International Airport (stock image).  © 123RF/sepavo

Hazelwood School Board is set to discuss the report in a closed session on Tuesday.

On Friday, the school board issued a statement saying the district is consulting with experts and attorneys to determine the next steps.

School Board President, Betsy Rachel said Saturday, "Safety is absolutely our top priority for our staff and students."

Parents of the district weren't made aware of the study results until June of this year, when the Corps 2018 report was first shared with the Hazelwood School Board.

Parents have called for additional testing, but their requests were denied. The Boston Chemical Data Corp has not said who funded their recent study.

Ashley Bernaugh, president of the Jana parent-teacher association, said that reading the report confirmed her worst fears. "I was heartbroken," she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It sounds so cliché, but it takes your breath from you."

Cover photo: Collage: 123RF/sepavo & 123rf/vampy1

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