Officials believe they will prove prior tests were anomalies
By Robert Frank
Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) hopes that a new round of scientific tests will show that abnormally high radon readings in a couple of its classrooms south of Highway 40 were spurious anomalies.
LBPSB assistant director-general Carol Heffernan stated that the school board began retesting for radon at St. Patrick School in Pincourt, July 4.
“In the first two sets of testing there was some concern that a couple of classrooms at St. Patrick were over 200 bcq but less than 600 bcq,” she reported.
“If you look at the surrounding classrooms at 33-34 becquerels (bcq) and then you have something coming up at 700 bcq, the radiologists say that it’s highly unlikely,” Heffernan said in an interview. “It looked like a faulty dosimeter, so they recommended a second test.”
Heffernan added that LBPSB will be retesting some classrooms Highway 40 that showed excessive readings during the winter.
“We had a couple that were over 600 bcq but less than 800 bcq, so we want to go back and do a quick test over the summer,” she told Ward 17 Commissioner Louisa Bulgarelli-Vero during LBPSB’s June 30 council meeting.
“If the second test comes back over 600 bcq, then the likelihood is that there’s a problem,” Heffernan explained. “If it comes in less than that, they recommend doing a test in the winter—when there won’t be any windows open—which is the more complete test.
The findings are part of a mandatory, three-year safety program to evaluate radon levels in all schools. Last year, Heffernan told LBPSB school commissioners that any results over 600 bcq require immediate action.
She told The Suburban that LBPSB is also retesting classrooms in two of its schools north of Highway 40, due to vandalism.
“The results at Westpark and Pierrefonds Comprehensive [looked] highly unlikely, because we had one classroom at 300-400 bcq and everything else was in the 30 bcq range,” reassured Heffernan. “We put [more] dosimeters in [during the winter] but unfortunately, when we went to collect them, they were no longer in the classroom, so we will be retesting and I will alert the teachers to pay particular attention to those classrooms.”
Despite the handful of high readings, LBPSB appears to have far fewer radon gas infiltration problems than its counterparts.
“We’re very fortunate, because we’ve read about some other school boards where half the classrooms are hitting way over [safe] amounts, depending upon where the school is located,” Heffernan said.
“We sent every parent a letter saying that their school was going to be tested and, as soon as the results are available and confirmed, we will [tell] them whether we will be doing additional work at school or if there is nothing else to be done,” Heffernan promised. “We plan to give the information to the governing boards this September.”