GCSD to start $130K worth of radon remediation

GUILDERLAND —  The Guilderland School District plans to remediate radon in the areas of its high school where recent readings were over state and federal safety levels. The odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas occurs naturally and, in high concentrations over a period of time, can cause lung cancer.

The district will also set up a schedule for regular retesting, probably at least every two years. A November Enterprise editorial called for local schools to put policies in place that would require testing every two years as the federal Environmental Protection Agency advises but does not require.  

Clifford Nooney, the school district’s director of physical plant management, told The Enterprise that the district is tentatively targeting an overall cost for the entire remediation project of about $130,000.

“That is not set in stone,” he said.

The overall cost would be included in the 2019-20 budget, he said, and the district would plan to remediate during the summer of 2019.

High levels had been found in a number of areas on the east side of the high school in 2008 when tests were done districtwide.

Remediation of the high school’s auditorium and east gym was completed in 2010.

The east side of the high school was tested for the second time in 2018 and six areas were found to again be above the action level. The test involved an initial two-day test followed by a 90-day test.

The EPA recommends testing homes and schools every two years, and remediating when the average of a first and a follow-up test is 4 picoCuries per liter or more. Levels lower than that “still pose a risk, and in many cases may be reduced,” according to the agency’s 2012 “A Citizen’s Guide to Radon.”

The Guilderland Public Library currently has a sign-up sheet in its entryway, for people who would like to receive a free radon test kit from Cornell Cooperative Extension.

The school district will now work to remediate the areas that were recently found to again be too high and to set a regular schedule for retesting.

Retesting will likely be done at least every two years, said Nooney.

First step

Radon is the number-one cause of lung cancer among people who do not smoke, and the second-leading cause of lung cancer for people who do. It causes about 20,000 deaths every year, says the EPA, which recommends but does not require testing in homes or in schools.  

As a first step to remediating the radon found again in the high school, architectural and engineering firm CSArch of Albany will design the needed remediation and send the proposal to the New York State Education Department, the school board heard at its Jan. 10 meeting.

CSArch’s role will include creating the design for mechanical and electrical systems to remediate radon in the areas where levels were found to be higher than the recommended action level of 4 PicoCuries per liter. It will also include overseeing the bidding and negotiation process, and the administration of construction. The remediation work itself would be bid out, Nooney said.

A mitigation system typically draws radon-laden soil gas from beneath a building’s foundation and exhausts it outside of the building, far enough away from windows and other openings that it will not re-enter.

CSArch’s fee for these services will be $17,800, an agreement that the board approved unanimously at its Jan. 10 meeting.

Nooney will then work with the district’s consultant, he said, to come up with a retesting schedule, which would probably entail retesting at least every two years. The consultant that the district currently works with is Needham Risk Management, Nooney said.

No other buildings in the district have been tested since 2008. Nooney said in an email that he would defer to Needham’s expertise when making decisions about where to test, based on factors including past test results and different soil conditions.

It is recommended that retesting be done during the heating season, when windows are closed, Nooney said, because “you get more accurate readings.”


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