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Army Corps again says Jana Elementary School is safe from radiological waste

Jana Elementary School on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, in Florissant. Environmental investigation consultants have found significant radioactive contamination at the school, which sits in the flood plain of Coldwater Creek — a body of water contaminated by radioactive nuclear waste from weapons production during World War II.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Jana Elementary School in Florissant on Oct 22. The site has been tested multiple times for radioactive contamination, producing conflicting results.

Updated at 4:10 p.m. April 25 with Sen. Josh Hawley’s announcement

The Army Corps of Engineers is again saying Jana Elementary is radiologically safe, as Missouri politicians continue to call for further testing and remediation in the Hazelwood School District.

In a report released Tuesday, the Corps said testing it did in late November and early October showed the school did not have radioactive material above the expected range of background levels. This repeats the message the corps communicated to the school district and Jana families in November, when it presented preliminary results from the same testing.

Also on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis County, introduced legislation to require testing at all Hazelwood School District properties for radioactive waste and the cleanup of Jana Elementary School. Earlier this year, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., introduced similar legislation in the U.S. Senate, and on Tuesday he announced he would go to the Senate floor on Wednesday to request unanimous passage of the bill.

In the new report, the Corps describes its methods — handheld devices were used to measure two types of radioactivity at more than 400 locations. The Corps collected dust and pavement sediment from multiple locations inside and outside the school. The Corps said there is no evidence that radioactivity from World War II-era bomb-making ended up on these structures.

Jana Elementary sits next to Coldwater Creek. In the 1940s through '60s, waste from the Manhattan Project was stored in a facility five miles north of the school. The Corps acknowledges that rainwater washed soil from these sites into the creek.

Multiple testing reports from the school have shown different results, leading to confusion and frustration for parents.

In October, a report from a private firm, Boston Chemical Data Corp., said there was radioactive waste at the school. The report was prepared in connection to multiple lawsuits. Soon after those findings were released, the Hazelwood School District closed Jana.

In November, the Corps released preliminary results from this new testing and said the school was safe. Later that month, a consultant hired by the school district also said the school was safe.

Both Hawley and Bush’s legislation would require the Department of Energy to review all testing of Jana Elementary to decide if it was reliable.

Kate Grumke covers higher education and the many school districts in the region for St. Louis Public Radio.

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