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'This community deserves a second opinion': US Army Corps to test inside Jana Elementary after report's red flags

In the meantime, Jana PTA has already found a potential facility that could house students.

FLORISSANT, Mo. — As kids pivot to virtual learning on Monday, the US Army Corps of Engineers will also be doing some testing of its own.

The government agency already did sampling in the last few years but only tested the banks of Coldwater Creek within the property boundary.

Christen Commuso with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment believes its public pressure. 

"Public pressure gets everything done," Commuso said. 

Now, the pressure is on to get answers.

For the first time, Commuso said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is going inside Jana Elementary.

This is after an independent report from The Boston Chemical Data Corp. The study of Jana Elementary said test results indicate high levels of radioactive Polonium, also known as Pb 210, found in the following areas:

  • Inside the Jana Elementary school building (specifically on the cafeteria fan, in the boiler room, and in the school library)
  • Jana Elementary school playground areas’ soil (specifically the kindergarten play area and near the basketball court area)

The report was released on Oct. 10.

The school sits near Coldwater Creek. The nuclear waste from the Manhattan Project was dumped there and at Westlake Landfill in Bridgeton.

On Friday, the US Army Corps of Engineers saidys it will expand sampling to include the entire property with soil samples and structure surveys both inside and outside the school.

But Commuso said this should have been done sooner.

That's because back in 2019, the CDC shared an exposure report recommending indoor dust sampling throughout the area. 

It also talked about the possible risks at hand. 

Just this January, the US Army Corps of Engineers sent a letter to Hazelwood School District saying it found low-level radioactive contamination in the banks of Coldwater Creek within the property boundary.

It told the district, the contamination does not pose an immediate risk and discouraged digging in the area.

"They used in their current configuration, everything should be fine if you don't dig. But it's not deep into the soils. I think the deepest was two feet, which an animal can disturb that or a kid back there can disturb that or MSD on the property doing, laying pipe on the property," Commuso said. 

From there, Hazelwood School District did not inform parents until August about the low levels and the welcoming of a new test.

Commuso also worries about flooding, especially after historic floodwaters this summer.

"I know it's able to leave thorium inside the sediment of the creek and anytime that the creek floods, it will re-deposit," Commuso said.

Preliminary results of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' testing will be available within two weeks. 

Additionally, it's coordinating with its partners at the Department of Energy to conduct a peer review of its work.

Commuso believes the school could be deep cleaned just like you would for asbestos. 

In the meantime, Jana PTA has already found a potential facility that could house students. 

Monsignor Matthew Mitas of St. Angela Merici invited Jana PTA to view the St. Angela Merici school site on Friday and offered to work with the Jana community to be a solution for students and families.

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