High levels of radon found in Souris Consolidated School

Ryan Ross
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Souris parents can add radon to their list of concerns after testing found elevated levels of the cancer causing gas at Souris Consolidated School.

Education Minister Alan McIsaac said the Eastern School District was in contact with the province’s public health officers who in turn contacted Health Canada about the issue.

“Health Canada has said that there’s no real level of concern there and the staff and children are definitely safe and can continue on as is,” he said.

 

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF RADON

The Eastern School District sent a memo to parents Wednesday telling them test results showed radon levels were higher than the Health Canada guidelines.

Test results showed a room listed as number 105 had a level of 588 becquerels per cubic metre while the school’s lunch room had a level of 386 becquerels per cubic metre.

Health Canada’s guideline sets the acceptable level at 200 becquerels per cubic metre.

The findings came the day after Souris parents protested outside Province House, accusing the government of breaking a promise to build a new Kindergarten to Grade 12 school in the community.

A school construction committee put the cost of a new school at $24.8 million, but has settled for a renovation of the high school with an addition built on after the province gave a firm $20 million commitment for the project.

Students aren’t expected to move in until 2014.

In the memo to parents, superintendent Ricky Hood said work will be done immediately to find the radon source and fix the problem, hopefully by the end of June.

Radon is an invisible, odourless, tasteless gas that can seep into buildings through cracks in the foundation or floor.

Health Canada says studies have linked exposure to certain levels of radon to increased risk of developing lung cancer.

In 2007 Health Canada lowered the guideline level from 800 becquerels per cubic metre.

McIsaac said the Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Department has hired a company to do work that will stop the radon problem as soon as possible.

“They do this on a regular basis and they’re the officials on it,” he said.

The memo to parents said the province hired certified radon mitigating company Pinchin Leblanc Environmental Limited to do the work.

It’s not the first time testing found higher than acceptable radon levels at Souris Consolidated.

Testing done in 2008 found the highest recorded level in the school was 300 becquerels per cubic metre and remedial action was ordered to be done within two years.

That level was found in the lunch room, while room 105 had a level of 271 becquerels per cubic metre.

A third room also had higher than acceptable levels in 2008.

McIsaac said the radon levels were found as part of regular testing in Island schools, which includes mould and water infiltration checks.

“The big thing is we want to stay on top of it and if you ever see that the numbers go up, hey, let’s get in there and do something because the health and safety of our staff and students is of utmost importance,” he said.

Parents were also recently notified about carbon dioxide levels that were higher than Health Canada’s standards.

Because of those levels the school staff now open all windows in the building four times a day to exchange the air.

Symptoms of high carbon dioxide levels are fatigue, headaches and irritated nasal passages.

 

rross@theguardian.pe.ca

 

Organizations: Health Canada, Souris Consolidated School, Province House Grade 12 school Infrastructure Renewal Department Pinchin Leblanc Environmental

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Recent comments

  • Deborah W
    May 17, 2012 - 17:36

    Perhaps some aren't aware of the 30 Million they are planning to put out for the Confederation party?Why can't they spare 4.8 Million from that and put it towards a new school? 20 Million may be a lot for one school for one town but this school is to take in several surrounding communities from K-12. I'm pretty sure the government was well aware that the 20 Million was not going to cover the cost of a brand new school by the time it was proposed to be built, as was promised to the people of Souris, and the communities involved. Bottom line is don't make promises that you aren't about to keep. Why should Souris sit down and shut up,or as someone put it, "deal with reality", when everyone else gets, Maybe it's time to change that reality! It's been that way since I can remember. I'm glad people are starting to get up in arms over these issues! I'm proud of the parents groups and the interested parties who are brave and gutsy enough to fight for what they deserve and believe in. The question remains, however, will anything be resolved?; not unless people question what's going on and start demanding answers. That's your right, as voters. Kudos to the parents and teachers of Souris!!!!!

    • Andy
      May 18, 2012 - 13:56

      The "reality" is that we've been running deficits non-stop and debt has fueled the PEI lifestyle for far too long. We simply don't have anymore money to give to such a small community. I agree that the government makes many dumb decisions, but I think they made the right decision here. A renovated school will allow the students to learn just as well as a new school. Learning does not depend on how new a building is. - A former Souris resident.

  • john
    May 17, 2012 - 17:05

    Our family participated in a Health Canada study a few years ago where we had a radon detector in our house outside the city for a few months. We had part of our basement that tested very high and subsequently had to get the sump properly sealed and a few other things. Follow up testing showed that the levels had dropped significantly. When I discussed the test results with Health Canada they said that PEI soil was quite prone to radon, as well as in NB and NS. I am quite certain that the Souris school could be made safe - just do proper foundation and pipe sealing, etc.

  • Marla C.
    May 17, 2012 - 11:16

    Now everyone is understanding, why the parents are VERY angry!! Ohhh NO ignorant comments now! Yesterday realllly ticked me off, when everyone thought all the parents in Souris were just whining that we wanted a new school..."Accept the renovations everyone said!"... Radon or no Radon! This was promised to the Town of Souris 4 years ago from the Gov't and now lets try shut down one of the major streets(Which will not happen, btw!!!! ) If it was a go to close the street, you gonna move St.Mary's church??????????????? Why not just reconstruct Souris all together!!..Sorry for the sarcasm, but we are not just whining up there!!.... Geogre G... Are you an architect or an Engineer????? ...I bet if they found that high of levels in Ch'town at the Gray or Rural that would been looked into much quicker, I bet ya money "We better tear it down, and build a new one" Comes down to Ghiz Gov't does not want to do anything for anybody in rural areas of Pei!! As Ch'town and all his goons are looked after, MAKES ME SICK!...Thank god I live in Halifax. But, ticks me off that my nieces and nephews have to go into this everyday! "A PROMISE IS A PROMISE"

    • george g
      May 17, 2012 - 12:37

      I'm a chemist actually. If a school in Charlottetown was found to have high levels of radon, tearing it down and building a new one would do nothing. Radon doesn't come from the building itself, as I said before (please read/research before pointless ranting.) Putting excessive question marks at the end of sentences makes you look childish. If you haven't noticed, the world is in a bit of a financial crisis at the moment. Maybe that's why your funding was cut by a little bit. You guys are still being offered 20 million dollars which is an absurd amount of money (for a school) for the amount of people that live in Souris. I'm not a liberal defender, but come on... do you really think once another party comes to power in PEI that Souris will be taken care of? I don't think so. Small towns are a dying breed. Deal with reality instead of holding onto the past please.

    • Another Islander, Another Opinion
      May 17, 2012 - 14:58

      George G, I am sure the parents already schooled themselves on where Radon comes from and the effects it can have on their children's health. The fact remains that the levels of Radon present in that school is too high. No amount of "I know more than you" is going to change that. Those children, teachers, EA's, custodians, administrators etc should not be in that building. The government was aware of this since 2008 and done nothing except make false promises. It is unacceptable. As for excessive question marks...if you are not aware it's to show emotion and, given the circumstances, emotions are running high. That may be hard to comprehend when you are a self proclaimed grammar cop. As for your question on whether or not Souris should be taken care of? My answer is yes, they should. Smaller towns in PEI contribute to the provincial coffer too. Actually, if you breakdown the total population in PEI you will find that if you took out the people in rural areas there wouldn't be many left. Then where would PEI be?

    • George G
      May 18, 2012 - 08:23

      I agree with you that it is ridiculous that there are high levels of radon if the school. I'm just saying that people using this story as a reason that they need a brand new school are wrong. Lately it seems that every story that mentions the government suddenly turns into a debate about building a new school in Souris.

  • Some are Misinformed
    May 17, 2012 - 09:44

    I think some are a bit confused (or is it me?) As far as the "new" school in Souris is concerned, my understanding was that it was the Souris Regional High School that would undergo the renovations and the extension, and that IT would house the K-12 school, not the Consolidated School. Am I wrong? High levels of Radon are not acceptable. Period. But what does one have to do with the other? This is a completely separate issue. It's not going to be the Consolidated School that they are putting the $20 Million towards, it's the high school that will receive the $20 Million reno.

  • george G
    May 17, 2012 - 09:27

    All you new school pushes, please realize that a new school won't automatically fix this problem - the Radon is coming from the ground. New buildings have Radon problems all the time. I bet if a lot of Souris residents had their homes checked they would find that their homes have high levels of Radon. Many areas of Atlantic Canada have this problem as well.

    • We Know
      May 17, 2012 - 17:51

      We know they are separate issues. A new school may not have the same issue but surely to God it will not have the cracks in the foundation that allows that radon in at levels that exceed national health regulations. The connection between the radon, air quality and new school is the lack of respect that the government has shown the community. The radon issue should have been remediated and monitored properly, air quality should have been monitored with overcrowding in the school and with the complaints from staff and students of illness and finally the broken promise of the new school. All of these issues are connected with the disrespect that we have been shown by government.

  • voter
    May 17, 2012 - 09:01

    what jobs and/or future considerations were these ministers offered for selling out their common sense and principles ?

  • Find the Source
    May 17, 2012 - 08:42

    Alarming information - but what is the source of this Radon and carbon dioxide?

  • Read the Reports
    May 17, 2012 - 08:38

    http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/sites/infopei/7108%20Radon%20Final%20report%20(rev).pdf AND http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/sites/infopei/7108%20Radon%20Final%20report%20(rev).pdf It appears the radon gas levels at Spring Park may have been the driver for the new school rather than the mold issue ----- Who to believe? Where are the follow up reports? Were there additional studies conducted? Were they done at the same time of year? What about the homes in the area, have they been tested too? I'm not so sure about this government or if I believe that government is making an effort to be "transparent." Is it possible that our elected officials and public servants believe they are smarter than the general population? I hope not.

  • SG
    May 17, 2012 - 08:21

    (A third room also had higher than acceptable levels in 2008. McIsaac said .“The big thing is we want to stay on top of it and if you ever see that the numbers go up, hey, let’s get in there and do something because the health and safety of our staff and students is of utmost importance,” he said.) One room had higher than acceptable levels two years ago but nothing was done? I wonder if higher than acceptable levels of radon was found in Province House how long would they wait before hiring a company to deal with the problem?

    • Wokndering
      May 17, 2012 - 17:42

      McIsaac says that they will keep on top of things. Really. It is that parents in Souris area who have kept on top of things and forced the district and department into doing the tests that showed the poor air quality levels, the over national health standard radon levels and who know what the mold testing will tell us - it is not not back yet.. I want to commend the parents and tell Minister McIsaac to stop taking credit where it isn't due.

  • mary
    May 17, 2012 - 07:32

    this is very sickening to hear.I have one child that catches every bug on the go and now to hear this was in the school at a high level for years pisses me off.my daughter is now over at the high school but if I were the parent sof the children that go to the cons school I would keep all the children home and refuse to send them till the issue is fixed,,maybe then Ghiz would wake up(doubtfull)

  • Another Islander, Another Opinion
    May 17, 2012 - 07:25

    Everyone ask yourself one question. Now you know the levels of Radon and Carbon Monoxide are higher than acceptable limits, would you send your children to Souris Consolidated School? I'm sure all parents would say, "absolutely not." I'm also sure that all parents would be concerned sending their children there even after proposed renovations. Fact is, children are being exposed to cancer causing toxins at levels higher than the guidelines. These children now have a higher chance of developing lung cancer than those that are not exposed to radon. The truth lies in the story and we shouldn't ignore it.

  • Pam
    May 17, 2012 - 06:50

    This is just all so discusting, I heard rumors of this but thought that it was all just that ..a rumor. I cant believe a government is actually arguing with a community over a school that we need for our children, I mean I can see them against a new shopping mall or something like that, but a school come on!!!! A school to educate our Island children. Did you know that Mr Ghiz put a new school up for his children to go to in his riding that is 60% bigger than it needed to be, wasnt that nice. Well Iam not sending my child to this school in Souris in the fall , I 'll have to come up with a better plan than this, Iam not taking the chance of her getting sick

  • Just makes sense
    May 17, 2012 - 06:27

    I applaud the parents of Souris for not taking this laying down. The governement is trying to limp this school through and bully you into renos and an addition all the while keeping your children in a building that is full of known cancer causing gases. At this point it is not about the building, it is about the students and teachers....and doing what is right....come through on your promise and put the shovel in the groud!

  • voter
    May 17, 2012 - 06:14

    the teachers are probably having health concerns because they have been there for 5 - 10- 15 or more years It would be important and helpful for everyone to hear the health concerns of each teacher --maybe a report from each teacher on the topic--with some secrecy to protect the teacher from government backlash !!!

  • anthony
    May 17, 2012 - 03:52

    If Souris area still wants a $25 million new school then that same amount should be subtracted from all highway paving contracts and economic development spending for that area over the next 20 years. Fair is fair.

    • Concerned Parent
      May 17, 2012 - 09:46

      So, Anthony - you don't think we have lost enough yet do you?! We're losing our dialysis units (which 12 people use on a weekly basis), 3 schools were closed back in 2008, we have no ER (and haven't for years) and currently we don't even have a walk-in clinic because we are down to 1 doctor (we're supposed to have 4). I'm pretty sure we've covered the "fair is fair". In 2008, the Ghiz government closed 3 schools in this area (Fortune, Rollo Bay and Eastern Kings Cons. Schools) with the PROMISE that there would be a BRAND NEW school coming our way. There was no talk of money at that time - they did not tell the people of Eastern Kings that the dollar limit was $20 million dollars. Funny thing is is that Stratford Elementary went over budget, but did the current government refuse to build their school - NO. Spring Park is getting a new elementary school (in Premier Ghiz's riding, I might add) - and are going over budget, but is Premier Ghiz and his government refusing to build that school - NO. As soon as they found air quality issues in other schools on the Island something was done about it, but Souris children and staff having been learning and working in a "sick" school for years, all the while our government has known about this, and now they have the audacity to tell us they won't give us a new school. Yes, we will continue to fight for what we deserve. Souris may be small, but we are mighty - when it comes to our children we want the best, just like the rest of you naysayers would expect for all of your own children.

  • Dot connector
    May 17, 2012 - 01:16

    Who was the Superintendent of the Eastern School Board when these radon tests were swept under the rug four years ago? I guess a little bit of radon is a small price to pay for the perks of being a Deputy Minister.

  • Woulduwanttobreaththisyourself?
    May 16, 2012 - 23:14

    Levels were high in 2008- which means problem was there before 2008..something was to be done then- and now it is 2012 and still nothing done and the new tests show higher levels than the first round. Premier Ghiz...would you have your children in a building allowing them to be exposed to this day in day out for their school years? I highly doubt it.

    • Happy Camper
      May 26, 2012 - 20:39

      Isn't it funny how it took 4 years for parents, teachers, and the community to kick up a stink about it? It took 4 years and ironically the " broken promise" of a new school. Now that Souris isn't getting the amount of money for this new school they had hoped for they're NOW up in arms about the radon levels? That speaks volumes to me. If you're suddenly so concerned about the radon levels, find a temporary placement for these children while your renovation, yes renovation that you elected to do, is being done. Whether a new school is built or a renovation is being done to the high school with no air quality issues, the children will be in the existing school for the time being. Get your priorities straight. People can see through your agruements. The rallys that have been held at the Legislature over the last couple weeks are an embarrassment to self-advocacy.

  • SlyGuy
    May 16, 2012 - 22:12

    I do not know which is more scary ,radon above acceptable level or it being like this since 2008.