Mo. Grade School Riddled With Radioactive Material Closes

Contamination stems from WWII-era nuclear weapons production in the area
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 19, 2022 3:00 AM CDT
Missouri Elementary School Closed After Radioactive Material Found Inside School
A school bus arrives at Jana Elementary School on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022 in Florissant, Mo.   (Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

A Missouri school board decided Tuesday to shut down a grade school that sits near a contaminated creek after a study found high levels of radioactive material inside the school, the AP reports. Contamination was in classrooms, the playground, and elsewhere at Jana Elementary School in Florissant, Missouri, according to a report last week by Boston Chemical Data Corp. It follows another study by the US Army Corps of Engineers, made public in the summer, that found contamination stemming from World War II-era nuclear weapons production in a wooded area near Coldwater Creek. The Hazelwood Board of Education voted in closed session Tuesday to close the school until it can be cleaned up. Virtual learning will start Monday and is planned until the students can be moved to different schools, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 28. It's unclear when Jana Elementary would reopen.

The school board, in a statement after the closed meeting, said remediation is necessary but acknowledged “this is causing a disruption to our students’ education and school climate.” The decision came even as a Corps official raised questions about the Boston Chemical study. Phillip Moser, program manager of the Corps’ Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program in St. Louis, said the agency's evaluations found no contamination between the wooded site and the school or its playground. He called the Boston Chemical report “incomplete and not consistent with the approved processes required to do an evaluation at one of our sites.” Still, several politicians urged immediate closure of the school.

The new report worried parents, especially since the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry stated in 2019 that people exposed to Coldwater Creek from the 1960s to the 1990s may have an increased risk of bone cancer, lung cancer, and leukemia. “I do not understand why it's not closed now,” William Johnson, the father of a current student at the school and three others who went there, told the board. It wasn't immediately clear if students will continue at the school through the rest of the week. District spokesperson Jordyn Elston said she didn't have information on the remainder of the week. Many speakers at the meeting welcomed the shutdown of the school, but wondered why the school district didn't communicate about the problem. Some said they heard about it first on the news or on Facebook. (Read more here.)

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