Letters say school was not tested
The Daily Record News Group
- A recently-discovered series of letters written 10 years ago indicate
state health officials failed to conduct soil tests at McKinley
Elementary School in Lincoln Park in spite of private 1992 tests
indicating the school playground contained unsafe levels of uranium,
lead and molybdenum.
Canon City superintendent of schools will now ask for those tests.
Stoffey, who has overseen the cleanup of the Lincoln Park Superfund
site for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
since 1988, said he walked around the school with a gamma detection
device after receiving the reports but did not test for the metals.
unaware of any other tests," Stoffey said, adding that the
Geiger-counter-type test was part of a program in which all the
intersections in the Superfund area were tested.
said the device, which indicated uranium levels within the safe
range at the school, could not have measured alpha or beta radiation,
lead or molybdenum. He said he "doesn't remember any letters"
informing the department of the private soil tests that showed high
levels of contaminants.
copy of that letter, however, shows it was sent to Stoffey - as
well as health department officials Fred Dowsett and Robert Quillin
- on Aug. 17, 1992. Quillin has since retired and Dowsett, who works
in the department's hazardous materials division, said he doesn't
remember the letter.
really did not have a whole lot of involvement with Cotter,"
Dowsett said. "If I got the letter I probably would have referred
it back to Phil (Stoffey)."
City School Superintendent Frank Cooper said he remembers receiving
a later letter he now assumes came from the health department which
gave the school grounds a clean bill of health, but he still wants
to know if the health department's letter was accurate. Cooper said
he is now looking for a copy of the letter.
looked at the letter to make sure there was nothing for us to be
alarmed about," he said, adding that he didn't know the health
department did not conduct soil tests for the metals.
initial tests on the school grounds, conducted by Glenn Miller Consulting
in Elizabeth and analyzed by Hazen Laboratories in 1992, indicated
uranium levels four times the amount of naturally-occurring radiation
and indicated molybdenum levels 21 times the natural level. The
same test indicated lead levels 3.75 times the natural background.
The tests showed a uranium level of four parts per million, molybdenum
at 41 ppm and lead at 75 ppm.
was contracted to perform the tests by a Colorado Springs law firm
that at the time was representing several Lincoln Park residents
in a lawsuit against Cotter. According to a letter sent by attorney
Rebecca Lorenz to the school district on Aug. 20, 1992, the superintendent
agreed to the tests after requests from parents at the school. Lorenz
has confirmed that she wrote the letter.
days before that letter was sent, Lorenz sent a similar letter to
the health department. She also sent a letter to the Environmental
Protection Agency. The EPA responded that it referred the matter
"to our counterparts" at the state health department.
letter to the school district warned that exposure to lead can be
harmful to young children.
said school officials assumed the site was safe after receiving
the health department letter, but now wants to know more.
want to make sure the message we received is correct," he said.
"I haven't yet spoken to the school board but, speaking for
myself, I want to find out. I know we were told we were within the
safe range at the time."
said he plans to contact state health officials regarding possible
new testing of the school grounds. The department last week announced
it will soon conduct tests for plutonium and other contaminants
at about 20 locations in the Lincoln Park area.