Clinton County: DEP Finds Elevated Radon Levels in Radium-Contaminated Lock Haven Building

WILLIAMSPORT – Tests by the Department of Environmental Protection at a radium-contaminated facility in Lock Haven, Clinton County, over the past two-and-a-half months have found elevated radon levels in a building that also houses students of the nearby state university.

DEP has advised the business owner of Ron’s Rental, located at 210 Third Ave., of the findings, and has offered to meet with the owner and tenants in the four apartments to answer any questions they may have.

“Radon levels in the first floor business and the second floor apartments are above where we would recommend remediation work to reduce the levels,” said DEP Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell. “We will conduct further work at this site and offer the owner possible options for remediating the building once further analysis is complete.

“Meanwhile, should the students decide to return to the apartment, no immediate health threats are present. In order to ensure that continues to be the case, however, we will stress to the building’s owner that remediation take place as soon as possible once the investigation is complete and we’ve developed potential strategies.”

DEP was alerted to radium problems at this site last June when it received individual reports that the property had been used by the now-defunct Karnish Instruments to work with aircraft instruments that contained radium luminous paint, which is no longer used.

DEP’s investigation found radium contamination in the soil outside the building, but initial measurements inside the apartments showed only two isolated spots with levels above naturally occurring background radiation.

According to Yowell, the presence of radium led the department to suspect radon may be an issue at the site.

“Radium can break down to form radon, so we felt we should do further testing,” said Yowell. “These results show the testing was warranted.”

Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that occurs naturally in soil and rock, and is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Radon normally enters buildings through cracks and sump holes in basements and foundations.

High radon levels are common in homes throughout Pennsylvania, and the only way to know the radon level in your home is to test. Radon test kits, which cost about $25, are available at many home improvement, hardware, outdoor supply, and department stores.

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