Radon testing begins at 9 Westside schools

       Small black disks were being installed by School District 11 Facilities employees this week on the ceilings of rooms at 15 schools, including 9 on the Westside.
       The disks will record the amounts of radon in the 399 rooms between now and next April or May, according to Facilities Director Mike Maloney. There are no legal mandates on safety levels for the odorless gas, but the district strives to meet standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
       Maloney added his confidence that the schools will show improvement over the last testing 15 years ago, as a result of ensuing ventilation upgrades district-wide and foundation-area fan system installations at five schools (four on the Westside). “We expect the results will show we are even safer than we were in 1991,” he said.
       The Westside schools that were outfitted with fan systems are Howbert, Midland and Whittier elementaries and West Middle School. These are also being tested this time around, along with Bristol, Buena Vista and Washington elementaries and Coronado and Bijou high schools.
       These schools were selected on the basis of the '91 results, Maloney explained. At that time, all the rooms in D-11 schools were tested, short-term. The 300-plus that showed higher than normal readings were then tested long-term. Those rooms will now be tested again.
       The '91 results also led to the underground fan systems for Howbert, Midland, Whittier and West. These units “extract air from below the foundation before can it get into the school,” Maloney said. “When we retested after they were installed, they had brought the radon levels down significantly.”
       Radon is a gas formed by the disintegration of radium in the ground. It is found more commonly in the region west of I-25, Maloney said. There is an ongoing national debate regarding how much of a health hazard radon is. The state's only requirement is that school districts test for it at least once.

Westside Pioneer article