Supervisors hear update on radon | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Supervisors hear update on radon

Adam Jensen

The latest results on the prevalence of radon gas at the South Shore were presented to the El Dorado Board of Supervisors, during a meeting Tuesday at Lake Tahoe Community College.

“If you’re in the Tahoe Keys, it’s unlikely you’ll have a radon problem. Everywhere else in South Lake Tahoe is right around 50 percent,” said George Faggella, radon officer for the California Department of Health Services, during a presentation at the meeting.

Faggella used data collected from hundreds of homes at the South Shore last winter to back up the statement.

Public outreach aimed at residents whose homes tested high, as well as broader educational plans for January, are part of the county’s efforts to raise awareness about radon, according to Geri Silva, director of El Dorado County’s Environmental management department.

Those efforts aren’t far-reaching enough, local radon testing advocate, Jeff Miner, said Tuesday.

“We have 50 percent of our homes over the Environmental Protection Agency action level and we’re just using user education and public outreach,” Miner asked in frustration to the board.

Amendments to city and county building codes should require new homes to include radon mitigation measures, according to Miner. This mitigation usually involves specialized ventilation systems.

Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that can, in the long term, reach potentially dangerous levels when trapped indoors. The colorless, odorless gas is listed as the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In May, the Minnesota legislature passed an ordinance requiring radon ventilation systems for new homes state-wide, in large part because of the higher cost of putting the systems in existing homes, according to a press release from Minnesota Sate Representative Kim Norton, a sponsor of the legislation.

The cost of putting radon mitigation systems in existing homes is usually between $2,000 and $5,000, while putting in the measures while constructing a home costs less than $1,000, Faggella said on Tuesday.

Because radon arises naturally from the soil, Jack Sweeney, El Dorado County supervisor for District 3, said soil tests should be used to determine individual sites of concern, rather than using broad code changes to lower the number of homes at the South Shore with elevated radon levels.

“I think all of that kind of data needs to be put together in score sheets, if you would,” Sweeney said.

Although soil samples could show where radon was coming from, the air circulation within a house plays a major role in determining if the gas will build up to potentially dangerous levels. The dynamics of individual structures makes it impossible for soil samples alone to pinpoint homes with elevated levels of radon, Faggella said.

New energy-efficient homes, which are more tightly sealed, will often be more susceptible to radon build-up, Faggella added.

Although the board of supervisors was only hearing information on the subject and was not scheduled to take action on Tuesday, South Lake Tahoe Mayor Kathay Lovell and City Councilman Ted Long were also in attendance on Tuesday.

After the meeting, Long expressed interest in getting radon issues on the agenda for discussion at a future city council meeting.


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