The US Army Corps of Engineers confirmed to 5 On Your Side that their agency was never asked to test additional spaces.
FLORISSANT, Mo. – Further testing is underway in the Hazelwood School District for radioactive contaminants.
This is after conflicting reports of the presence of radioactive contamination at Jana Elementary in Florissant.
Under the Formerly Used Site Corrective Action Program (FUSRAP), the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is required to clean up contaminated areas.
This year, the agency confirmed that there were low-level radioactive contaminants on the banks of Coldwater Creek, at the edge of Jana’s property.
The agency said the level of concern was low and Jana was safe.
This contradicted another Boston Chemical Data Corporation report showing high levels of contamination in and around the school.
The Boston Chemical Data Corp. works with attorneys involved in a class action lawsuit involving Coldwater Creek.
Because of these conflicting results, the Hazelwood School District brought in a third party, called SCI Engineering.
Through sunshine requests, we learned that the cost for these tests at Jana Elementary was $59,038.
School officials have now asked SCI to do even more sampling in the district.
Hazelwood Central High School’s football field is one site.
A district spokesperson confirmed this was being done out of caution, as a former employee made a report saying Jana’s soil may have been used to level the ground more than 25 years ago.
The cost to test the football field is $12,902.
The Family Outreach Center at 13780 Old Halls Ferry Road was also tested.
It is in the Coldwater Creek flood zone.
This cost was $2,800 plus $255 per soil sample analysis.
Jana PTA President Ashley Bernaugh has been fighting for Jana Elementary for years and now, for her community.
“We obviously commend the Hazelwood School District for wanting to investigate. But the Hazelwood School District doesn’t need to foot this bill,” Bernaugh said.
She thinks the US Army Corps of Engineers could have helped cover the costs of the tests.
“There should be no reason for our tax dollars to go to anything other than educational needs,” she said.
However, the US Army Corps of Engineers confirmed to 5 On Your Side that the agency was never asked to test additional spaces.
The US Army Corps of Engineers issued this statement:
“The USACE Formerly Used Sites Corrective Action Program was unaware that the Hazelwood School District had engaged an independent engineering firm to test the football field at HSD Central High School and had not received no requests to perform tests at school. Although the USACE has no knowledge of the floors relocated from Jana Elementary to Central High School, preliminary results of USACE’s extensive testing of the floors at Jana Elementary do not indicate the presence of radiological contamination within. above background levels, outside of an area indicating a low level. radioactive contamination on a densely forested shore of Coldwater Creek. This area is just inside the school property and not easily accessible. We certainly understand the community’s concerns about the safety and well-being of their children; It is one of our main priorities to provide this community in which we live and work with accurate, reliable and scientifically based data with which to make informed and well-informed decisions.
Christen Commuso of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment said she was concerned about contaminated waste beyond the creek.
“It is very possible that contaminated soil waste has been moved throughout North County,” Commuso said.
Bernaugh is also disappointed with the district’s lack of communication about the additional testing being done.
Jana PTA works with the law firm Great Rivers.
It is a non-profit legal clinic and with their help the groups were able to get more information from the Hazelwood School District through sunshine requests.
“Hazelwood School District knowing this information and not providing information to the community in a transparent manner is a major disservice,” Bernaugh said.
Commuso is also concerned about the lack of transparency.
“It came as a surprise to all of us involved, it’s sad that it takes a sun request to get this information,” Commuso said. “I think in order to gain trust, you have to communicate and be willing to tell these people the truth. You can’t make decisions for us anymore.”
Commuso believes that this information should have been published since it is taxpayers’ money.
She’s also curious how SCI Engineering was hired in the first place.
“They should have informed the community that they are using taxpayers’ money for that money. And how they got the bidding process. It’s confusing to me,” Commuso said.
If you look at SCI Engineering’s website, it shows that they are not completely independent.
It lists the US Army Corps of Engineers as a federal customer.
“It’s like they haven’t done their homework,” Commuso said. “It only took a simple Google search to see that SCI has the Corps as a federal client. There should be a lot of voices at this table. I think everyone has a part in the lack of transparency. “
We reached out to the Hazelwood School District for an interview to find out more, but they declined to talk.
5 On Your Side also contacted SCI Engineering. We haven’t heard from an interview.
The football field testing schedule is yet to be confirmed.
As for the Family Outreach Center, SCI Engineering told the Hazelwood School District that the tests raised no concerns.
As for what comes next, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment is working on forming a community-led oversight committee.
This weekend, the group is even knocking on the doors of communities near the creek, explaining the possible risks.
As for Jana Elementary and its future, a district spokesperson said, “The district has no new information to provide at this time.”
Asked about the cost, a Hazelwood School District spokesperson said, “It will be paid for by the district, but may be reimbursed by insurance depending on the outcome of the larger issue.”
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