Students will remain in Souris Consolidated School despite levels of radon almost triple those recommended by Health Canada.
Eastern School District superintendent Ricky Hood said health officials have assured him the high radon levels aren't a risk for the students.
The radon gas was first detected in the school in 2008, and parents want to know why it is taking so long to fix the problem. The head of Souris Consolidated's Home and School Association said officials have been negligent. The school board made efforts to stop the gas from leaking into the school, sealing cracks in the floors and foundation, but Hood admitted so far remediation efforts have failed.
"I think looking back is always easier than looking forward. In hindsight bringing in a professional company earlier in the process would have been beneficial," he said.
"I think we have some system issues and we can learn from that experience. And it really wasn't until this May when we got a 90-day test result on radon that we did that we realized, you know, the problem is still here."
The board has now hired a certified radon mitigation company from Halifax to extract radon from below the school and release it into the atmosphere. Hood is recommending computerizing all testing and remediation done at schools, and making that information public.
The most recent testing in two rooms in the school showed radon levels of 386 and 588 becquerels per cubic metre. Health Canada recommends a maximum of 200 becquerels per cubic metre. World Health Organization is recommending even more stringent standards – 100 becquerels per cubic metre.
Hood said the health risk for students at the school is small, with a significant risk of lung cancer coming only if someone was spending 18 hours a day in the room for 70 years.
Mould testing has also been done at the school. Previous tests were done only in the lunch room in 2009 and came back clear. More extensive testing results are expected in two weeks.
Concern connected to strained relationship
The worries about radon in the school seem to be as much about a lack of trust in the community with the government as anything else, said Hood.
"It appears there's some issues with all levels of government, and I'm not sure what the answer is there," he said.
"As Islanders when we see a community where so many people seem to be voicing this concern, there must be something we should be able to do as a province so we fully understand."
Hood said he has been trying hard to listen in order to appreciate better the concerns people have.