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US Army Corps: Contamination cleanup to take 15 years, Jana Elementary is safe

Jana remains shuttered. Parents say their children who were re-assigned to other schools last term will return to their new schools next year.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Thursday evening, people in north St. Louis County got an opportunity to engage in a community conversation surrounding contamination concerns around Jana Elementary and along Coldwater Creek. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers admits its cleanup efforts overall will take more than a decade. But when it comes to Jana Elementary specifically, officials maintain the school is safe.

That was the USACE’s stance several months ago when it shared its preliminary findings. Now, the group says there is no need for more testing or even a cleanup of Jana Elementary.

"The school does not require remediation because from radiological standpoint, the school is safe. Our extensive amount of surveying and testing that we did, and the associated documentation verifies that,” Phil Moser said.

He addressed the community Thursday, fielding questions and sharing the latest information. People in North County have been patiently waiting for answers and a resolution.

The USACE says it continues to test for and clean up radioactivity along the Coldwater Creek. In North County, the group says, cleanup is expected to take 15 more years.

But when it comes to Jana Elementary specifically, the community has been dealing with conflicting reports over whether there's a need to clean the now closed school building. The government is trying to ease fears -- saying there are no high levels of contamination on site. A small crowd there to hear that declaration and to react.

"Radioactive waste is never safe. It doesn’t matter how much it is. It's never safe. The more of it is less safe. The less of it is more safe but you never get to more safe when you’re dealing with radioactive waste,” parent Ashley Bernaugh said.

“I think the sad thing is the room is empty. I received my postcard two days ago. They have to do a better job getting out there and outreaching to reach the people that need to be here. The takeaway is I'm heartbroken because there's so much contamination in our community,” Dawn Chapman of Just Moms STL added.

Jana remains shuttered. 

Parents say their children who were re-assigned to other schools last term will return to their new schools next year.

Meanwhile, the government is currently cleaning up contamination along the creek near the school. 

USACE officials said some residential properties along Coldwater will need cleanup as well, but there's no word just how many.

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