Radioactive Waste From Project Manhattan Has Been Found On An Elementary School Ground

An elementary school on the outskirts of St. Louis has “entirely unacceptable” levels of radioactive waste on its grounds, according to a new report from the Boston Chemical Data Corp.

The investigation revealed radioactive elements “far in excess of the natural background” at Jana Elementary School in Florissant, Missouri.

Environmental scientists discovered radioactive isotope lead-210 in concentrations more than 22 times higher than anticipated. In addition, they found 12 times the normal level near the basketball courts. At the school, thorium-230, polonium-210, and radium-226 were also found.

The school, which is part of the Hazelwood School District and educates about 400 kids, is located within the Coldwater Creek flood area. During World War II, while working on the Manhattan Project, nuclear waste was dumped next to a creek near St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

During the war, workers at the Mallinckrodt factory in downtown St. Louis mined uranium and radium. According to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, they transferred waste from this procedure to two storage locations near Coldwater Creek. Still, they handled the radioactive material poorly, contaminating the 19-mile tributary of the Missouri River and nearby communities.

“The Jana school, like many homes, institutions and businesses in the area, borders Coldwater Creek,” said Marco Kaltofen, Boston Chemical’s president and principal investigator.

“Unfortunately, when Coldwater Creek floods its banks, some radioactive material is deposited on neighbouring lands, such as the school.”

The Army Corps of Engineers has been cleaning up the poisoned watercourse for the past 25 years. However, the Corps pushed the completion timeline for the $34.55 million restoration and cleanup project to 2038 in December.

A little bit less radioactive pollution was found surrounding the school in previous Corps studies in 2018. Within 300 feet of the school, the Corps did not take any measurements of the exterior or interior, though.

According to sources, a spokeswoman for the Corps stated that the agency would study the Boston Chemical report and its procedures.

The school board will address the radioactive waste measurements during its meeting on Tuesday. The district stated on Friday that its leaders are “actively discussing the implications of the findings” and would speak with attorneys and experts on how to proceed.

“Safety is always our top priority,” per the district’s statement.

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