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NBC 10 I-Team: Elevated radon found in North Providence High School

North Providence High School is one of three schools that tested positive for radon in the school district. (WJAR)

In addition to uncovering elevated radon levels at one North Providence elementary school, the NBC 10 I-Team has discovered higher radon levels at the high school.

A radon test conducted by Ocean Analytics and analyzed by Accustar measured levels of radon at 8.5 pCi/L, double the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable level of 4, in one basement classroom.

Josephine Saltzman, a licensed radon tester with Ocean State Analytics, told the NBC 10 I-Team she conducted the test in March 2016 when Whelan Elementary and other schools were also tested. Whelan was found to have elevated radon levels.

Saltzman confirmed that 8.5 is above the EPA acceptable level and is supposed to trigger a follow up test within nine months, but that testing was never done.

“I didn’t do follow-up testing because I had surgery on my foot,” Saltzman explained. She also says she didn’t suggest that the school department hire anyone else to do the retest, per EPA protocols.

Saltzman said she contacted the facilities director Jim Fuoroli to tell him a retest was needed, but that she couldn’t do it. Months passed and the radon retest was never completed at Whelan nor North Providence High School.

“I was going to test it in September (2016) after school started, but I couldn’t,” she said.

Saltzman said she was using a scooter to get around, and because Whelan and the high school had stairs, maneuvering through the schools would be difficult.

“I was going to do it as soon as I was able to walk,” she said. “I did do some testing for him (the facilities director) with a scooter – the administration or school department buildings,” she said.

Asked why she didn’t suggest the school department hire another licensed radon expert to do the test, Saltzman said: “I have no idea, I had no one I could recommend. If you need to blame someone blame me.”

Saltzman went on to say that she was not concerned about Whelan’s levels because they had been much higher in the past in 2002 and had dropped during a retest. She was more concerned about testing other buildings throughout the state.

“I wasn’t concerned because I had done them before,” she said of Whelan and the high school. “I needed to do buildings that hadn’t been done in years instead of follow up tests in two rooms that now had fresh air.”

The NBC 10 I-Team wanted answers and went to the school department and the town’s mayor to ask what happened.

Superintendent Bridget Morisseau did not respond to email or voicemail requests for comment. Mayor Charlie Lombardi’s office said the facilities director was told by Saltzman that the radon level did not necessitate an emergency reaction or a need for immediate mitigation, despite EPA protocols that say a retest was needed.

The mayor’s office said an informational meeting will be held on July 26 when Saltzman and other officials will be available to answer questions from the community.

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