Work is still underway to mitigate high radon levels at some Evergreen Public Schools campuses, where the district has paid more than $25,000 to test for the radioactive gas.
Invoices obtained from a public records request by The Columbian show the district has paid Portland-based radon mitigation firm Cascade Radon $25,558 — which will come from the school’s general fund — for testing.
Mitigation work is ongoing at Mill Plain Elementary School, Mountain View High School, Hearthwood Elementary School, Pacific Middle School, Burnt Bridge Creek Elementary School, Covington Middle School, York Elementary School and Heritage High School. Radon was also found at Marrion Elementary School, Sifton Elementary School, Crestline Elementary School, Orchards Elementary School, Fircrest Elementary School and Ellsworth Elementary School, but levels at those campuses are now safe, according to the district.
In some cases, mitigation can be as simple as fully opening air vents or moving temporary walls to improve circulation in a building. Some buildings, however, require more intensive work to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system to ensure proper air flow.
The district paid Cascade Radon $3,644.26 for mitigation efforts at Marrion Elementary School, Orchards Elementary School and Sifton Elementary School, according to invoices. Additional work will begin at Pacific Middle School this week.
Testing for radon during summer months can be a challenge, according to Scott Deutsch, risk management and safety manager for the district. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends testing be conducted when the building is being used normally and during the winter months when the heat is running. When it’s cold and windows are more likely to be closed, less outside air comes into the building, offering a more accurate look at the average radon level in a room, according to an EPA report on radon in schools.
“Right now we’re in a holding pattern,” Deutsch said.
In cases where the district’s facilities crew is improving the HVAC system, additional testing will be done in October, Deutsch said.
Evergreen Public Schools first announced the presence of elevated radon levels at some campuses in March. The district started testing for the gas after testing for lead last fall.
Radon is an odorless, tasteless and colorless gas released from the decay of uranium. That means for Clark County, where the Missoula Floods swept granite across the landscape 18,000 years ago, the gas appears in elevated amounts. Clark County is rated a Zone 1 radon county by the EPA, with predicted average radon levels above 4 picocuries per liter of air, the highest ranking a county can receive. Long-term exposure to that much radon can be dangerous.
The gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. The organization estimates 155,870 people will die from lung cancer in 2017. Smoking contributes to about 80 percent of those deaths for men and women — about 125,000 in 2017 — while radon-related lung cancer kills about 20,000 people per year.
Home radon test kits are available at hardware stores for about $10 to $25.