Radioactive Waste Found in Elementary School

Radioactive Waste Found in Elementary School
School Playground | Image by Shutterstock

A significant amount of nuclear waste was discovered in an elementary school located in the suburban area of St. Louis, Missouri, a report by Boston Chemical Data Corp. confirmed.

The investigation consultants had been looking into the location in response to concerns raised by a previous Army Corps of Engineers study.

The new report is based on samples taken in August from the school, though Boston Chemical did not specify who or what requested and funded the study.

The radioactive contamination was discovered at Jana Elementary School of the Hazelwood school district in Florissant, Missouri.

During World War II, Florissant was home to a weapons production plant that sat on the flood plain of Coldwater Creek — the location of Jana Elementary today.

Nuclear waste from the weapons production was reportedly dumped at sites near St. Louis Lambert International Airport, next to the creek that flows to the Missouri River.

The Army Corps of Engineers has been cleaning up the creek for more than 20 years, though radioactive waste was apparently able to “escape” the boundaries of the area initially believed to have been contaminated.

The most recent report tests samples from Jana Elementary’s library, kitchen, classrooms, fields, and playgrounds.

Boston Chemical reported that the level of radioactive waste was more than 22 times what it had expected to find in Jana’s kindergarten playground. More than 12 times the expected level was found by the school’s basketball courts.

Karen Nickel, a co-founder of Just Moms STL, a local environmental advocacy group, was shocked by the report, saying, “For it to be on a school playground — this is the unimaginable…  There are no safe levels of any radioactive materials, in my mind, that these children should be exposed to.”

Just Moms STL is now pushing for an immediate clean-up of the nuclear waste.

“We are, in 2022, still creating casualties of World War II,” said co-founder Dawn Chapman. “Are we really going to let these children be casualties?”

The levels of radioactive isotope — primarily lead-210, polonium, radium, and other toxins — were “far in excess” of what Boston Chemical expected to find in the area, with dust samples in the school found to be contaminated.

The Hazelwood school district board is expected to discuss the new report and act by consulting with attorneys and experts to determine next steps.

Hazelwood school board President Betsy Rachel released a statement on Saturday, saying, “Safety is absolutely our top priority for our staff and students.”    

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