Twenty-six Montgomery County Public Schools found to have elevated radon levels are being retested to confirm the levels of the gas.
Although the levels are elevated, they not high enough to raise safety concerns or close schools, a school official said.
Retesting began on Nov. 13, and the results take a week to come back, said Gboyinde Onijala, spokesperson for MCPS.
“We made a mistake; we should have retested as soon as it was discovered that the levels were slightly elevated,” said Onijala. “We are taking steps to fix that now and are reviewing our Radon Testing program to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”
Before remediation begins, retesting will be performed.
Remediation will include installing venting systems that push the gas from the ground beneath through the vent in to the outside air if retests show schools have a level higher than 4 picocuries, a unit of measurement for radioactivity, Onijala said.
Onijala said if schools were to test at a level of 100 picocuries, schools would be evacuated.
“I want to stress that our buildings and classrooms are safe,” Onijala said.
As of Dec.7, retesting was underway at the following elementary schools, Cresthaven, Fallsmead, Highland, Highland View, Oak View, Oakland Terrace and Takoma Park.
Glenallan Elementary School and Viers Mill Elementary School are in the process of being retested,according to an updated report.
Retesting did not begin until Nov. 13, according to a school official.
On Nov. 3, results of radon testing in the 205 public schools revealed elementary schools such as Beall Elementary School had a level of 4.4 picocuries per liter of air, and South Lake has a level of 9.6 picocuries per liter of air.
The report also showed that Springbrook High School has the highest amount of radon, with 9.8.
According to the official report, eight rooms in the high school tested between 4.1 and 9.8.
County council member Craig Rice (D-2) said there is more of a concern for those in elementary schools because they are “stagnant” and stay in one room all day, while those in middle and high schools move
from one classroom to the next.
Since the 1980s, radon testing has been performed in MCPS after the EPA conducted a nationwide test and remediation for radon.
Radon is an invisible, odorless and tasteless gas created in the breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil.
This harmful gas makes its way into buildings via cracks and gaps, construction joints and the well water supply, according to the Department of Facilities Management Division of Maintenance.
Radon is the second-leading cause of cancer, behind tobacco, and is responsible for about 21,000 deaths per year, according to the EPA.
Onijala said a letter was sent out to the parents, making them aware of the radon in the schools on Dec.1.