Student Safety Near Magnuson Park

I'll confess that this does not have to do with Seattle schools or its students.  But with the lack of concern for ANY student exhibited here, you have to wonder if this kind of lax behavior could happen anywhere.

Rep. Gerry Pollet, a true friend to public education, was being interviewed by KIRO-tv about the clean-up of radioactive sewer lines near Magnuson.  Look who comes walking along; students from the Waldorf High School. 

How is this safe?

From Rep. Pollet:

Watch how students are protected by a chain link fence from radioactive contamination at Magnuson Park. Numerous groups of students walked within a couple of feet of the work crew in radiation protection tyvek suits as they dredge out radioactive contamination from a sewer line. Their protection against splashes and contamination is the chain link fence. 

Students in this video are walking from NOAA road underpass towards Waldorf High School and Building 27 (indoor soccer). 

We have asked WA Departments of Health and Ecology to take some common sense safety regulatory steps since they told the public at Tuesday night's public meeting that they are overseeing safety of the cleanup by the Navy.


Anonymous said…
Good for Pollett. The authorities' attitude towards this whole Magnuson Park clean-up has been a bit lacking, to say the least.

Greg said…
More details on it:

To summarize, there was radium paint used on the site around WWII to make glow-in-the-dark dials for airplanes. There are detectable but extremely small levels of radiation from dust and shards of that paint.

Radiation is scary, but these levels are extremely small. I don't mean to trivialize it, but I'm more worried about lead and arsenic levels in the soil in some of our parks and schools than this.
Anonymous said…
Seattle Waldorf School had their own independent people review the cleanup and found it to be safe. Believe me, there was a lot of concern about this before the high school signed a lease there. A lot of Waldorf parents were concerned and there was a big meeting on it. Frankly, I think Gerry Pollet is totally blowing this out of proportion and for what reason I am not sure. I would not hesitate to have my kid go to school there and walk past it to school everyday.

You might want to ask SWS about the reports it reviewed before moving the high school there.

Anonymous said…
Yes, I agree that providing more info about the levels of radiation and the cleanup plans is important. The word radiation is scary, but it's just one of the hazards we face, and there are naturally occurring levels, as well as the contamination.

WA DOH reports levels in the "Radiation and Your Health" for publicly accessible outside areas of Magnuson, and they are very low (order of magnitude less than the limits, and within the rang of background radiation).

I am a bit irritated, however, that the report does not detail the level of contamination in the non-publicly accessible areas that are now being cleaned up, which, presumably, are above the federal limits (because they are currently being cleaned up). I think government officials have to stop "managing information" in these days of the internet, and simply make all the information available, with context, and not just address questions obliquely.

Anonymous said…
When I went to the meeting on this that SWS had, they kept saying 'an abundance of caution' implying that the city was going above and beyond what was needed because it was the right thing to do. There was a whole report on levels and what you could or could not do in the area. They said there was no radiation in Building 11 where SWHS was going and that the soil after cleanup in the areas where there was contamination, would be left in a condition of being able to grow food in it. There is no way SWHS would have moved there if there was a concern. Waldorf people pay very close attention to stuff like this.

Anonymous said…
"On Monday KING 5 reported that the Navy found 2 more sources of radioactive material in the soil at Magnuson Park."

Chris S
I guess I have to wonder, though, "safe" or not, wouldn't have been better to NOT have people walking right next to it? Why not divert them to the other side of the street?
Anonymous said…
Just because Rep. Pollett is a true friend to the teachers' union doesn't make him a true friend to public education. They are not one and the same.

I've followed my representative's education votes and I can't recall a single instance when he didn't vote along the WEA party line.

--- swk
Gerry Pollet said…
Here is the video link:

I can't imagine there is a parent, or school official, anywhere who would call this ok.

The workers, who the students are walking within 2 or 3 feet of, are wearing rad tyvek protection because the dredge and tools for the contaminated sewer line could splash. A chain link fence won't protect anyone. We asked that they simply move the fence out or put out cones to keep people maybe ten feet away. The WA Depts of Health and Ecology say they are overseeing safety measures for the Navy's contractors conducting the cleanup. But, no one apparently reviewed a work plan for this location. This is a separate issue, of course, than the long-term health risk from the residual contamination levels under the Navy's cleanup plan.

The Navy's cleanup level is based on no one using the Park to be exposed to soils more than 2 hours a day, 5 days a week. The Navy's cleanup levels are laxer than what EPA allows for Hanford or other Superfund sites with radioactive contamination. The cancer risk level to an adult male at 2 hours a day, 5 days a week from the Navy's cleanup level is 8 additional fatal cancers for every 10,000 adult males exposed. Women are 60% more susceptible to cancer from the same dose, and children 3-10 times more susceptible. And, children, including students, use the Park (remember about 200 kids live in the Park)and may be exposed for much more than 2 hours a day, 5 days a week. More info at under Magnsuon Park page, including small details that the Navy and WA DoH leave off their fact sheets: e.g., that the contamination levels in soil between Building 27 and Building 11 were over 300,000 cpm, or an equivalent radiation dose to someone who sat on the soil year around of 1,200 x-rays. Not that anyone sat there year-around, but these were VERY significant levels of contamination.
Anonymous said…
They don't really say when the 2 additional sites were identified do they. There were multiple sites identified at the meeting I went to back in January. So maybe more have been discovered since the original report in 2009 but I believe they were reviewed at the meeting I went to.

Dan B said…
Yes, radiation is a concern regarding our health. Yes, the US government has a long history of not always being forthright concerning radiation. However, more information is necessary concerning radium from paint and that is that it contained primarily radium-226 which decays via alpha radiation. Alpha particles need to be ingested or inhaled in most cases to cause physiologic damage. So, while not a great situation, an alarmist the-sky-is-falling approach to the problem is not the most helpful solution. Let’s isolate the area (especially from children) and minimize dust during the cleanup. I would be much more concerned if the radiation were beta, gamma, x-ray, or neutron-emitting, all of which have a much higher ability and probability of causing health issues. (see for example and Let's stay on the government to provide realistic information and proper safety interventions, to clean up properly, and to finish the job in a reasonable time. We must keep in perspective the proper level of response to health issues around us.
Anonymous said…
If we want to start the conversation regarding safety and schools, this might be more appropriate :


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