School board makes radon mitigation highest priority
The Douglas County School Board voted last week 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,” board Vice President Cynthia Trigg said during the meeting Tuesday at Douglas High School. “There is no more time to waste.”
Board members approved immediately soliciting bids from contractors qualified in active soil depressurization, the process of sealing off or redirecting gas away from a building’s foundation.
The district initially had 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 radioactive gas found in decomposing granite. Longtime 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,” parent Heather Howell said.
Dick Roper of Fallon Heating and Air Conditioning, one of only a few certified radon testers in Nevada, initially was 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 to the EPA in February 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 subslab or submembrane active soil depressurization.”
The board rescinded its previous request for Roper to work on an estimate for active soil depressurization after snow melted from around the school’s foundation.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,” Jamin said.
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,” parent Kathy Percival said. “The board is finally taking initiative.”