School board makes radon mitigation No. 1 priority
March 12, 2008
The Douglas County School Board voted Tuesday night to make radon mitigation at Zephyr Cove Elementary School the district’s No. 1 priority.
“I don’t want there to be any question whatsoever: this is our largest priority,” said board Vice President Cynthia Trigg during the meeting at Douglas High School. “There is no more time to waste.”
Board members approved the immediate release of a request for a proposal to solicit bids from contractors qualified in active soil depressurization, the process of sealing off or redirecting gas away from a building’s foundation.
The district had initially installed high efficiency particulate air filters to lower elevated radon levels discovered in some classrooms at Zephyr Cove last fall. However, parents had expressed concern that not enough was being done to prevent radon gas from coming into the school in the first place.
Radon is a colorless, odorless gas found in decomposing granite. Long-time exposure to the substance can cause lung cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Parents are very serious about not allowing their children to remain in an environment that we feel is a health threat,” said Lake parent Heather Howell.
Dick Roper of Fallon Heating and Air Conditioning, one of only a few certified radon testers in Nevada, was initially hired to mitigate the problem. He recommended air filters, and the district installed them, though parents argued that air filters were not recommended by the EPA in mitigating radon.
This discrepancy led board President Teri Jamin to write a letter in February to the EPA asking for guidance.
“The EPA does not recommend (air) filtration as a radon control measure,” stated EPA Radon Team Leader Phil Jalbert and Health Physicist Gene Fisher in a March response to Jamin’s letter. “EPA’s principal recommendation for mitigating radon levels in school buildings is to control the source and minimize or prevent radon entry. The technique used most often and successfully is sub-slab or sub-membrane active soil depressurization.”
The board rescinded its previous request for Roper to work on a ASD estimate after snow melted from around the school’s foundation.
“I feel confident with the EPA getting involved in the technical assistance, that it will help us in terms of making sure we are going in the right direction,” said Jamin.
More than a dozen parents from the Lake applauded when the board passed its resolution opening mitigation efforts to all qualified contractors independent of weather conditions.
“It’s a good step in the right direction,” said parent Kathy Percival. “The board is finally taking initiative.”