Enriched uranium contamination closes middle school in Ohio

PIKE CO., OH (WLWT/CNN) - An Ohio middle school has been closed after levels of enriched uranium were discovered in the air.

Air monitors detected the enriched uranium in Zahn's Corner Middle School in Ohio, and neptunium registered on a monitor outside. (Source: WLWT/CNN)

Scioto Valley Local School District Superintendent Todd Burkitt is trying to navigate a problem few, if any, school leaders have had to before.

Air monitors detected the enriched uranium in Zahn's Corner Middle School, and neptunium registered on a monitor outside. Both are radioactive with possible chronic risks, cancer being the biggest one.

"There's just not a playbook in how we deal with this," Burkitt said Monday. "We're kind of writing the script as we go."

The first move was closing the school for the rest of the school year. About 320 students started summer break a week early, and school leaders don't know if or when students will return.

"(We're) not take any chances on someone's child," Burkitt said. "We just won't do that."

Many here believe the source is a Portsmouth plant a couple of miles down the road. It produced enriched uranium from 1954 to 2001 and is now in cleanup mode.

Pike County health officials said the radioactive materials store in your bones and are released slowly over time, meaning former students, staff and their children also could be at risk.

School leaders want more tests done to determine the extent of the contamination and the source.

Jennifer Chandler, a council member for the Village of Piketon, said they were not prepared for this kind of situation.

"I attended this school from kindergarten to sixth grade and so did my husband," she said. "And all three of my children attended this school, so it is scary to think about."

She said homes and bodies of water also tested positive for contamination, including the Scioto River.

"We, at this point, don't know how far the contamination has reached," Chandler said. "That will be part of the ongoing investigation."

Copyright 2019 WLWT via CNN. All rights reserved.