• J​ana Elementary School serves about 400 students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working for years to clean up sites nearby.
  • But previous sampling didn’t include the school.

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A​ new report shows there is a significant amount of radioactive contamination inside an elementary school in suburban St. Louis, near where waste was dumped from a World War II nuclear weapons factory.

T​he U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working for years to clean up toxic waste near the St. Louis Lambert International Airport, where byproducts from the weapons manufacturing were dumped near a waterway called Coldwater Creek.

J​ana Elementary School, which serves about 400 students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade sits in the creek’s floodplain in the town of Florissant, just a few miles northeast of the airport.

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C​ontaminated soil has been found in residential yards, parks and other sites in the area, but sampling from the Corps of Engineers didn’t include the school, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Now, a​ new study from an environmental investigations company called Boston Chemical Data examined soil, dust and plants from inside Jana Elementary.

Levels of radioactive waste up to 22 times what was expected were found in a kindergarten play area, the Post-Dispatch reported. H​igh levels were also found in samples, taken Aug. 15, from classrooms, a kitchen, the HVAC system, fields and playgrounds.

An aerial view of Jana Elementary School and its surroundings. (Google Earth)

An aerial view of Jana Elementary School and its surroundings.

(Google Earth)

P​arents and environmental groups have previously asked for further testing. It’s not clear who ordered or funded the Boston Chemical Data Report.

“This has been in our community for over 80 years,” Ashley Bernaugh, president of the Jana parent-teacher association, told the Post-Dispatch. “We expect the school board to make the agencies responsible for this to come in and clean it up.”

B​ernaugh said she was “heartbroken” by the report.

“It sounds so cliché, but it takes your breath from you,” she said.

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Hazelwood School District, which oversees Jana Elementary, said in a statement posted to social media Friday that officials are aware of the new report.

“​Safety is always our top priority, and we are actively discussing the implications of the findings,” the statement reads. “The Board of Education will be consulting with attorneys and experts in this area of testing to determine next steps.”

The radioactive waste came from the Destrehan Street Refinery and Metal Plant, later called Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, in downtown St. Louis. Uranium used in to make the first atomic bombs was processed there and the factory remained active until 1957, according to a history of the site from the Corps of Engineers.

A dump site for byproducts from the plant was set up near the airport in 1946. Some was stored on the open ground, while some was buried. Later, when the plant was decommissioned, contaminated scrap metal and other waste was also dumped there.

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