Courthouse tested for radon

By Kelsey Kimbler -

PREBLE COUNTY — Recently, two separate radon inspections were performed on the Preble County Courthouse, both finding there is a potential issue in the 100-year-old building.

The Preble County Board of Elections had the first test completed on the courthouse. According to Board Member Gene Lindley, they had this test done after smelling something suspicious in the basement, where the board is supposed to store equipment.

The board received their results from National Property Inspections on Nov. 24.

The summary reads, “Mold testing: NPI collected air samples from the basement, fourth and main floor areas of the building where equipment and records are stored. The final spore count did not show anything outside the norm from the samples collected. Mold swab samples collected prior to our testing day also showed no elevated molds.

“Actions that can help reduce musty odors where no visible moisture entry or mold was identified are use of air purifiers, dehumidifiers, carpet removal and assure floor drains have not dried which allows sewer gases or fumes to enter the area.

Radon Levels: Radon testing was conducted over a weekend with continuous monitors. The secured storage area and research room were the tested locations. The average level for each room is 7.6 & 7.4 measured in pico curies per liter (pCi/L). Our recommendation is that a licensed mitigation contractor is consulted to evaluate how that air quality can be improved to reduce the overall radon level within the building.

Lead Levels: Paint samples were removed from the fourth-floor storage (window, wall & ceiling) and main floor Board Of Elections office for testing. The fourth-floor area was found with loose paint chips on stored boxes, storage shelves and various surfaces. The main floor office has loose paint on widow openings and walls. The lead levels found are double to almost three times the recommended exposure limit. The recommended resolution is encapsulation (prep, undercoat & paint) to prevent exposure. The loose paint around the roof can become air born when working in the area. We recommend consulting with a painter that is qualified for cleaning and painting the area to prevent further exposure.”

Under the radon measurement report, it further states, “The results show radon levels average 7.4 and 7.6pCi/L. An average level above 4.0 pCi/L is considered unhealthy and should be evaluated for corrective action. We recommend you consult a mitigation specialist for recommendations and estimated costs for reducing the radon levels.”

Following this report, the Preble County Commissioners’ decided to have their own testing conducted at the Preble County Courthouse on Dec. 11-13 and Dec. 13-18 by Helix Environmental, Inc. Four offices were tested from Dec. 11-13 and the basement secured storage area for the Board of Elections was tested from Dec. 13-18.

This report shows five areas tested:

•Radon concentration of 7.3 pCi/L was found in Microfilm Office.

•Radon concentration of 7.3 pCi/L was found in Microfilm Library.

•Radon concentration of 2.3 pCi/L was found in Ohio Auditor of State.

•Radon concentration of 1.6 pCi/L was found in maintenance office.

•Radon concentration of 6.6 pCi/L was found in Board of Elections Secured Storage.

The report states, “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recommends that residences with radon screening levels of 4.0 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L) be remediated to lower radon concentrations. U.S. EPA projects that occupants exposed to 4 pCi/L 75 percent of their 70 year lifetime will have an increased risk of lung cancer.

“The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) licenses radon testers and mitigators, and administers the radon program in Ohio. ODH recommends that public and commercial buildings be remediated if radon screening results equal or exceed 4.0 pCi/L.”

During “discussion and recommendations” the report reads, “Radon screening measurements in the Preble County Courthouse ranged from 1.6 to 7.3 pCi/L. Concentrations above 4 pCi/L were found in the following test locations: Microfilm Office, Microfilm Library, Board of Elections Secured Storage. Measurements in two additional locations were less than 4 pCi/L. Remediation is recommended in large buildings where radon concentrations are found to be 4.0 pCi/L or more.”

It clarifies, the results received were consistent with results from the previous test as well. Any differences could be attributed to the Board of Elections’ test being conducted during the weekend, with the Preble County Commissioners’ test conducted during the work week.

“Radon levels can vary considerably due to changes in heating system schedules, building entry and exit frequency, elevator operation and diurnal fluctuations, This does not appear to be the case in the courthouse basement offices. No unusual or extreme fluctuations in radon levels, relative humidity, barometric pressure or temperature were noted,” the report reads.

By Kelsey Kimbler

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH