Section: News

Radon remediation in NCAs will be completed this week

Since elevated radon levels were detected in 43 campus residences earlier this month, remediation and comprehensive testing has been ongoing. According to Vice President for Facilities and Sustainability Ian Smith, the “vast majority” of completed tests have shown results below 4.0 picocuries per liter (pCi/L), the level indicated to be safe by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Remediation is ongoing in the apartments where high levels of radon were detected, and Smith said that it should be completed in the North Campus Apartments (NCAs) and Wilson apartments by the end of this week. In these buildings, remediation involves activating previously passive radon mitigation systems by installing fans. The NCAs were built with the passive radon mitigation systems in part to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. According to Smith, the buildings on the West Quad — Chalmers Library, Lowell House and Oden Hall — have similar passive mitigation systems that will be activated if testing reveals high radon levels. The new residential buildings currently being built on North campus, as well as the Bexley Hall renovation, will also only have passive radon mitigation systems to achieve LEED certification status. Smith said these buildings will be tested upon completion, and the radon mitigation systems will be activated if dangerous levels are detected. “As we’ve seen with the current NCA upgrades from passive to active mitigation, this can be done quickly,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian.

As to why the NCAs were built without active radon mitigation systems despite Knox County’s high radon levels, Smith said, “There is no historical record available to us now that would indicate why this was the case.”

Comprehensive radon testing is also underway and has been completed in the Taft Cottages, the McIlvaine Apartments and all the South campus residence halls. Data is currently being collected in other student residences. Smith said that results from buildings where testing is ongoing are expected in the next few weeks. He further explained that as they become available, specific results will be shared with residents first, before general results are made more widely available. “Building results will be shared with residents as soon as they are reviewed and organized into [a] shareable format,” he said. 

The College also plans to test all non-residential buildings as soon as possible. Smith said that planning for this stage of the process is underway and should begin soon. “I expect that process to begin as soon as the required number of sampling devices and certified technicians can be arranged.”

According to Smith, some follow-up testing may be needed. “There may be some additional sampling for a handful of residential locations where either the sampling technicians could not gain access or a few where sampling devices have gone missing,” he said. Overall, he concluded, “I greatly appreciate our students’ respect for the sampling process.”

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