Denver Housing Authority begins testing all public housing complexes for radon – CBS Denver

DENVER (CBS4) – More than a year after CBS4 Investigates found elevated levels of radon in some public housing units of the Denver Housing Authority, the agency will spend a year trying to test all of its complexes for toxic gases. DHA has allocated $ 250,000 for the test project, which will begin this month.

CBS4 Investigates found dangerously high levels of radon in the Columbine Homes public housing complex. (Credit: CBS4)

Radon is an odorless, naturally occurring gas that, when locked in a house, can cause lung cancer in people who breathe it for long periods of time.

According to DHA Director David Nisivoccia, a third-party environmental company has created a set of formal SOP to give DHA a roadmap for properly auditing all of its complexes. Read the full procedures here.

“The plan is to start with common areas as these are obviously usually on the first floor and we’re looking at garages … then we’re going to move to our skyscrapers and then move to our row houses and then to our scattered locations, which are usually are single-family houses, ”said Nisivoccia.

When asked how residents are being made aware of the results, Nisivoccia said, “A couple of ways; Number one is … we will interact with the resident council boards and share the results with them, and then they will campaign for the rest of the customer base, but additionally we will have a copy of the results in the management office property for any resident who inquires about it want to see it or study it. “

If high levels are found, Standard Operating Procedures require DHA to perform follow-up testing. If the levels are still high, DHA will take appropriate measures to limit the damage.

However, according to Nisivoccia, DHA does not yet have the money for possible mitigation needs.

“We have to get that,” said Nisivoccia. “One of the things I want to do is get more additional funding from the HUD. They don’t provide guidance, they don’t fund this effort, and I think it’s a major health issue so we’ll talk to HUD and see if we can get any additional funding. “

As early as February 2020, CBS4 Investigates found elevated radon levels in some public housing units. CBS4 Investigates hired a nationally certified inspection agency, Area 5280 Home Inspections, to install sensors in five units of two different public housing communities in Denver: Columbine Homes and Westridge Homes.

Both results at the Columbine Homes complex were twice the EPA’s safe indoor radon limit, which is 4 picocuries per liter. The two results were 8.4 pCi / L and 7.8 pCi / L.

A radon test sensor is located in a Westridge Homes unit just before the test begins.  (Credit: CBS4)

A radon test sensor is located in a Westridge Homes unit just before the test begins. (Photo credit: Kati Weis, CBS4)

In the Westridge Homes complex, a result of 3.2 pCi / L was just below the EPA limit. Two further results were 1.0 pCi / l and 0.7 pCi / l, well below the limit value.

Tony Sutherland, the owner of Area 5280 Home Inspections, conducted the tests for the CBS4 investigation.

“Actually, I’m a little angry that people lived under these conditions for so long and there was no flag,” Sutherland said in February 2020. “The state has to get involved and something has to be set up to help these people. “

Maria Chacón, a retired waitress, lives in the unit at the Columbine Homes complex where the highest levels of radon were found. She said the results were worrying, especially given that she had lived in her unit for the past 12 years.

“It’s very dangerous, but I don’t have too many options at my age,” Chacón told CBS4 investigator Kati Weis in an interview that was translated from Spanish in February 2020.

In the course of the CBS4 investigation, DHA announced that it would spend $ 9,360 if an environmental company drew up standard operating procedures to determine the best path for testing and mitigation.

Standard operating procedures were delayed due to COVID-19, leaving some residents like Chacón at risk of radon exposure throughout the pandemic. The procedures were originally supposed to be completed in May 2020.

When asked if he was concerned about the delay that is having a negative impact on the health of DHA residents, Nisivoccia said, “I would say there is always a health concern, but I think people would with COVID -19 understand that the priority was making sure people stayed inside the house and they weren’t homeless. I think it’s a wise decision. That doesn’t mean we weren’t happy we couldn’t address it, but I thought the overwhelming circumstances of COVID wrote everything else. “

However, CBS4 Investigates wanted to know if DHA distributed educational materials during the pandemic to warn residents of possible radon risks, to help people keep windows open, or to take other measures to vent their units while they are stuck at home during the pressures of the pandemic.

DHA said it met with residents of Westridge Homes about radon issues prior to the pandemic. However, no additional educational materials were distributed during the pandemic.

“In 2020, COVID-19 consumed the world, business operations and DHA expected to receive third-party radon recommendations,” a spokesperson for DHA told CBS4 in an email.

The spokesperson says that when a resident’s unit is scheduled for the upcoming tests, they will receive this guide.

“In 2021, with our established third-party Radon Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), the EPA Citizen’s Guide to Radon will be distributed to property managers and residents to ensure awareness and education during their Unit is scheduled for inspection, “said the spokesman.

Nisivoccia says there will be more communication with residents in the future.

“I am glad that we are now able to address the problem and we will work through it effectively, efficiently and with open communication with our residents,” said Nisivoccia. “And have a healthier, happier and safer place for our residents.”

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