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School Radon-Testing Bill Unnecessary, E.P.A. Says

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Washington--The Environmental Protection Agency opposes a bill that would require schools in radon "hot spots" to test for the radioactive gas, an agency official told a Senate subcommittee last week.

Richard J. Guimond, director of the agency's office of radiation programs, told the Subcommittee on Superfund, Ocean and Water Protection that "at this time it is inappropriate to conclude that additional4legislation with respect to [radon] testing is necessary."

The measure, S 1697, was introduced last fall. It would require all schools in areas the epa designates as having elevated levels of the odorless and colorless gas to test for it, using a contractor who has been approved by the agency or by a state radon program.

Schools would not be required to reduce high radon levels. Test results, however, would have to beided to the public and to parent, teacher, and school-employee organizations.

The bill would authorize $30 million through 1996 for grants and loans to poor schools to help pay for testing and mitigation activities. Districts that do not comply with the law would face penalties of up to $500 a day per building. A similar bill has been introduced in the House.

The epa estimates that the typical school can be tested for less than $1,000. The agency says schools with radon levels above 4 picocuries per liter of air, the recommended "action level," would need to spend an estimated $3,000 to $15,000 on remediation.

Many schools began testing for radon last year, after the agency's administrator, William K. Reilly, recommended that all schools test for the carcinogenic gas and take steps to deal with it. (See Education Week, April 26, 1989.)

Katharine L. Herber, the legislative counsel for the National School Boards Association, said many schools in the radon "hot spots" have already tested for the gas. "These people are not grandfathered into the bill," she said.

She added that because epa would need time to develop the regulations required by the bill, many schools might not be able to meet the law's September 1993 deadline for testing.--ef

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