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Interim Superintendent Larry A. Bowers Announces Plan to Retest All Schools for Radon and Improve Monitoring and Mitigation Program

December 6, 2015

Montgomery County Public Schools is in the process of retesting 28 MCPS locations that previously showed elevated levels of radon according to the most recent testing reports MCPS has on record. If these tests indicate radon levels higher than the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action limit of 4.0 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), work will begin immediately to remediate these locations.

In addition, Interim Superintendent Larry A. Bowers has directed staff to review the MCPS radon program and to retest all schools and buildings in the district to establish a new baseline set of data of radon levels in MCPS facilities. The new radon monitoring program will be developed with guidance from the EPA and other experts in the field to ensure that MCPS is benefiting from the most current expertise in this area.

The upcoming testing schedule and future test results will be posted on the MCPS website to provide the community with the most current information about this work.

Below is the complete statement from Interim Superintendent Bowers:  

“Last week, concerns about elevated levels of radon in our schools were raised after the publication of a summary report of MCPS radon testing.   This report showed certain rooms in 28 locations that had elevated radon levels in need of retesting because they registered higher radon levels than the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended action limit of 4.0 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L).   

“Above all, student and staff safety is our number one priority, and this is an issue that we take very seriously.  Our radon testing protocols dictate that when a classroom registers higher than 4.0 pCi/L, we will retest as the first step before mitigation.  This retesting should have already occurred based on our testing protocols, and I regret that, in certain cases, it did not.  Therefore, I have directed our staff to move forward immediately with retesting in these 28 locations.  In some of these school locations, remediation had, in fact, already occurred and retesting will be an added cautionary measure.  Updated radon test results and actions for these sites will be posted as soon as they are available on the MCPS website at www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org.

“As we move forward, I have directed our Chief Operating Officer to conduct a review of what occurred in these 28 cases, as well as a comprehensive review of our overall radon testing program to strengthen our protocols going forward.  In addition, out of an abundance of caution, MCPS will commence with retesting all schools in our district as a first step to enhance our overall radon testing and remediation program.  This testing will take place over the next several months.  Updated radon test results will be posted for all locations as they are completed.  My intention is to develop an enhanced comprehensive program for school district radon testing and remediation that will serve as an exemplar in the future.  We will develop this program and conduct this work in accordance with EPA and other relevant guidelines, and in coordination and consultation with external subject matter experts in the field of radon testing and mitigation.  Information about our updated radon testing program will be posted on our website in the coming weeks.

“As background, Montgomery County Public Schools has been testing for radon in our schools since the late 1980s. An intensive period of systemwide testing and remediation was accomplished in the late 1980s through the mid-1990s to ensure that all schools complied with EPA guidance for radon (See EPA Publication EPA 402-R-92-14: Radon Measurement in Schools, Revised Edition).  Since that era, radon prevention measures such as sub-slab vapor barriers, proper sealing, and sub-slab vents have been incorporated into all new construction projects.   Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown and decay of uranium, which is found in soil and rock all over the United States. The EPA recommends that radon levels above 4.0 pCi/L should be retested and subsequently mitigated if levels are still elevated.   

“Again, I want to assure our students, staff, and parents that safety is our number one priority.  To that end, we are moving swiftly and decisively to bolster our radon testing and mitigation program.  I also want to encourage everyone in the MCPS community to consider radon testing for their own homes.  Radon is an issue for homes just like schools and other buildings, and the same guidelines recommended by the EPA for schools apply for homes as well.  If you have never tested your home for radon, I encourage you to do so.

“Going forward, we will continue to monitor this issue to ensure that our buildings remain within the EPA guidelines.”

 

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