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Medford School District Clarifies Radon Test Results

Some of those results were alarmingly-high and caused some concern and confusion.

Posted: Dec. 20, 2018 7:16 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- The Medford School District is clarifying the radon test results it released Wednesday.

Some of those results were alarmingly-high and caused some concern and confusion.

The EPA-recommended amount of radon is 4.0 pCi/L (picocuries per liter.) Some of the results showed levels reaching 20.0.

Ron Havnier, Facilities Services Manager for the district, said the high numbers represent what are called 'spiked' radon tests.

They are a part of a list of requirements schools must do when they test for radon.

The Oregon Health Authority requires schools to submit samples to a testing lab that are known as blanks, duplicates, or spiked with radon. They suggest schools be transparent with the lab results, including publishing the results of blanks, dupes, and spikes. They also recommend the school districts clarify those results when they are published. 

"We put this quality control procedures into the testing program to basically give us red flags so that when we see something that's off we can investigate and dig into it and make sure our testing procedures are good and when we need to re-test we will," Havnier said. 

He said those spiked tests never actually make it in a classroom or even on a school campus.

However, the data from it comes back on the report looking like any other classroom. 

The district says this is where the confusion comes from because they did not specify those high numbers are spiked tests.

The district has updated its results from the past three years on its website. The spiked tests are now highlighted and there is also an explanation as to what they mean.

Havnier said most of the results from the district are well below the recommended 4.0 level. However, there were some results near a 6 at Griffin Creek Elementary.

He said work has already been done there to figure out how to lower those numbers.

"We've gone through all the HVAC systems and made sure they're working properly, and we've increased the amount of run time so instead of shutting it off all night, right now we're running it longer to see what that effect is," Havnier said. 

He also explained that these testings can take a long time to get done. The district has gotten 11 of its schools tested since it became a requirement in 2016.

"We can only test during closed conditions, it has to be Winter, the HVAC system needs to be operating, when we do Winter conditions basically October through March or April, that's what they'd like to see because that's when people tend to close their doors," Havnier said. 

He said there's also only two testing labs in the country, which can slow things down. On top of that, schools will need to start mitigating if the results are coming back too high.

"We will look at how it's infiltrating into the buildings it could be a slab penetration, it could be a pipe chase, could be leaky windows or a wall so we'll investigate the space and see if there's any routes that it may be coming into that room that we can seal off," Havnier said. 

The district still has 8 more schools to test. It will spread them out over the next two years. The deadline for all schools to be tested is Jan. 1, 2021. 

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