Law's Sponsor Warned in '88: 'We're Poisoning Our Kids' - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NewsChannel 5 Investigates:

Law's Sponsor Warned in '88: 'We're Poisoning Our Kids'

Updated:

By Ben Hall
Investigative Reporter
 
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Metro Health Department has launched a program to test every Metro school for radon.

That testing comes after NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered that Metro had failed to follow a 1988 law designed to protect school children from radon, a naturally occurring gas known to cause lung cancer.

The Health Department and Metro Schools both claim they did not know the law existed.
 
But former Metro Councilman Rod Williams said he cannot believe city officials apparently forgot or ignored the ordinance that he sponsored.
Nashville Schools Test for Radon After 20-Year Delay

Ordinance 88-526 passed the Metro Council and was signed by the mayor back in 1988.  Williams was a passionate advocate for making sure Metro schools were safe from radon.
 
"Some in Metro want to bury their heads in the sand and hope that radon will go away," he said as he spoke for the bill in 1988.
 
"We're poisoning our kids."
 
That law called for lowering radon levels in all Metro schools to what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers safe - four picoCuries per liter.  Williams pushed the bill after testing in the late 1980s showed extremely high levels of radon in several school buildings. 
 
Some classrooms tested more than 25 times higher than the EPA's recommended level.
 
Williams' ordinance and a subsequent regulation adopted by the Metro Health Department required regular testing of schools.
 
"This is as relevant today as it was when it passed," the former councilman said as he reviewed his old bill.
 
But, incredibly, Williams' law is not in the Metro Code, so both the Health Department and the school system claim they did not know it existed.
 
After NewsChannel 5 showed local health officials the law and its own regulation, the Metro Health Department immediately began testing all schools for radon.
 
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked the director of environmental services with the Metro Health Department, "How surprised were you when you saw this ordinance?"

"I was surprised," Brent Hager responded. "I didn't know it existed."
 
It's all very frustrating for Rod Williams. 

"What's the point of having a legislative body if you can pass a law and nobody knows anything about it?" he asked.
 
Metro school officials claim they didn't know about it either.
 
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Metro's longtime point person for radon, "There hasn't been a test in more than 20 years.  Did somebody drop the ball here?"
 
"You know, I can't say that they did or didn't," Thomas Hatfield answered.
 
Hatfield was with Metro schools when the EPA did its testing.
 
NewsChannel 5 Investigates showed him a document that proves Metro schools were aware of the ordinance when it passed. "Here's something from Metro schools that says they received a copy of the ordinance."
 
"Okay," Hatfield responded.
 
So how does that fall through the cracks?
 
"Absolutely no idea," Hatfield said.
 
The former councilman questions how something like this could happen.
 
"We are so concerned about some things, but an obvious health hazard like this we totally ignore," Williams said.  "I wonder how many other laws have passed and nobody knows about them."
 
Metro's legal department says there are many ordinances that are passed but are not included in the Metro Code, although most deal with much more minor issues.

Email: bhall@newschannel5.com

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