Hazelwood Central Football Field Could Have Radioactive Contamination

An engineering firm is requesting permission to do further tests

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click to enlarge Contaminated soil from Jana Elementary School was used to level the football field at Hazelwood Central.
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Contaminated soil from Jana Elementary School was used to level the football field at Hazelwood Central.

An engineering firm is asking the Hazelwood School District for the green light to perform soil sampling and analytical testing on Hazelwood Central High School’s football field in Florissant, to determine the presence of radioactive waste.

SCI, the engineering firm, is making the request out of “an abundance of caution” after learning that soil from nearby Jana Elementary School had been taken to Hazelwood Central as “fill material to raise and level the football site,” according to a November 11 letter that SCI sent to the district.

The school district abruptly shut down Jana Elementary in mid-October after a private company detected dangerous levels of radioactive waste, including lead 210 – a “daughter” product of decaying Radon gas — in soil around the building and inside it.

Jana students, beginning late last month, began attending five other elementary schools while the Hazelwood Board of Education weighs Jana’s fate.

Both SCI and the Army Corps of Engineers, after conducting their own tests, concluded the school building does not harbor harmful levels of radioactive waste.

Jordyn Elston, a school district spokesperson, wrote in an email that SCI’s proposal is based “on a report from a former employee that believes that Jana soil may have been used to level the ground 25+ years ago. The timeline for testing is not yet confirmed.”

Betsy Rachel, the president of the Hazelwood School District Board of Education, declined to comment for this story.

Jana Elementary closed after Boston Chemical Data, a private firm hired by plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit, used X-ray analysis to detect widespread radioactive waste on the school grounds. The waste washed onto the soil from nearby Coldwater Creek.

The waste emanated from the Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, located north of downtown St. Louis. Mallinckrodt facilities processed most of the uranium used to build the first atomic bombs.

Mallinckrodt atomic weapon waste was moved and stored at a site north of St. Louis Lambert International Airport from 1947 until the late 1960s. This toxic waste, however, was improperly stored, allowing it to leach into the Coldwater Creek, which runs a short distance from Jana.

Hazelwood Central is one of the St. Louis area’s most successful football programs. The Hawks have played for 13 Missouri state championships since 1977, winning four.

SCI offered to perform the soil sampling and analysis for $12,902, according to the letter signed by Glen Grissom, a senior specialist, and Edwin P. Grimmer, a company vice-president.

Mike Fitzgerald can be contacted at [email protected]

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