FLORISSANT, Mo. — There is significant radioactive contamination at an elementary school in suburban St. Louis, where nuclear weapons were produced during World War II, according to a new report from environmental research consultants.
The Boston Chemical Data Corp. report confirmed fears about contamination at Jana Elementary School in the Hazelwood School District in Florissant raised by an earlier Army Corps of Engineers study.
The new report is based on samples taken in August from the school, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Boston Chemical did not say who or what requested and funded the report.
“I was heartbroken,” said Ashley Bernaugh, president of the Jana PTA, who has a son at the school. “It sounds so cliché, but it takes your breath away.”
The school is located on the Coldwater Creek floodplain, which was contaminated by nuclear waste from weapons production during World War II. The waste was dumped at sites near the St. Louis Lambert International Airport, along the creek that empties into the Missouri River. The Corps has been cleaning up the creek for more than 20 years.
The Corps report also found contamination in the area, but at much lower levels, and did not take any samples within 300 feet of the school. The most recent report included samples taken from Jana’s library, kitchen, classrooms, fields, and playgrounds.
Levels of the radioactive isotope lead-210, polonium, radium and other toxins were “well above” what Boston Chemical expected. Dust samples taken inside the school were found to be contaminated.
Inhaling or ingesting these radioactive materials can cause significant injury, according to the report.
“A significant remedial program will be required to bring conditions at the school in line with expectations,” the report said.
The new report is expected to be a major topic at Tuesday’s Hazelwood school board meeting. The district said in a statement that it will consult with its attorneys and experts to determine next steps.
“Safety is absolutely our top priority for our staff and students,” board president Betsy Rachel said Saturday.
Christen Commuso of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment presented the results of the Corps study to the school board in June after obtaining a copy through a Freedom of Information Act request.
“I wouldn’t want my son in this school,” he said. “The effect of these toxins is cumulative.”