T. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) – It’s been a multi-year struggle for answers for parents with students attending Jana Elementary in Hazelwood, like Ashley Bernaugh.
“We have to protect the kids, we have to protect our staff,” said Bernaugh, who is also the PTA President of the school.
She has been pushing for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to test and remediate the presence of radioactive waste that was once dumped along the Coldwater creek area during the height of the development of the nuclear bomb. Coldwater creek sits behind the school’s property.
“It’s been here since 1940s and it is long past time to make it go away,” said Bernaugh about radioactive contamination.
Commuso has been working with parents like Bernaugh to get answers from the district and USACE on testing, as well as helping file Freedom of Information Act requests.
“We certainly don’t think that a parent should have to FOIA information or pay $800 just to get the data that there’s radioactive bomb waste on our child’s school,” said Commuso.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers referenced a number of things as it relates to the testing by the school:
At the time, sample results were being combined into an overall comprehensive document that takes a significant amount of time to produce. Once finalized, these types of documents are shared with property owners. The USACE has recently started to send status letters to property owners in an effort to provide results in a more timely fashion. These letters are meant to inform property owners of the presence of contamination with recommendations for precautions up front, rather than waiting for full data collection and finalization of full data reports as in previous years.
USACE also says their testing found no immediate risks to the community:
Any contamination posing a high risk or immediate threat to human health or the environment would be made a priority for remediation. In addition, USACE conducted a thorough evaluation and data collection exercise from within the entire length of Coldwater Creek (CWC) within site boundaries. The data is still being evaluated, but early indication is that no sample results will be above RGs (Remediation Goals). Radioactive contamination in the general area is below the surface, low-level radiation, and does not pose immediate health or safety risks to the public in its current configuration.
However, Commuso says any bit of radioactive contamination is concerning, even if the effects are not immediate.
“We’ve never been concerned about an immediate threat, we’re concerned about long-term low-level exposure to this,” said Commuso. “These kids aren’t here once in a blue moon, they attend this property 8 hours a day, 9 months out of the year.”