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Radon forces Dodge courthouse employees out of basement

MANTORVILLE — Dodge County will be moving some employees out of their offices on the basement level of the county courthouse while testing for radon gas continues and then while mitigation steps are taken, county commissioners decided Tuesday.

At their last meeting, the commissioners learned that in some buildings, radon gas builds up overnight and then dissipates in the morning when the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units systems come. To see if this were the case in the old county courthouse, a continuous monitor was installed in the rooms where radon gas had been previously measured at over four picocuries, the level at which the Environmental Protection Agency considers it dangerous in residences.

Emergency Services Director Matt Maas reported Tuesday that the radon did not dissipate in at least three of the rooms he had monitored so far. In fact, in one of the offices the radon level readings were higher in the daytime that they were at night.

The commissioners immediately decided to move employees out of the offices into the employee break room in the annex. The space will be divided up and appropriately wired. The break room will be moved to the commissioners' small conference room in the annex.

Commissioner Rodney Peterson said that there are no radon standards for commercial buildings, but the commissioners are choosing to act in the most conservative way to protect employees.


Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

Joshua Miller, research/building scientist at the state Department of Health, recommended that the continuous monitoring be completed for all rooms that had previously been shown to have high readings so that true readings can be obtained. Maas said that in the summer, the readings will be different.

After the monitoring is complete, Miller recommended that an approved vendor do pressure field extension diagnostics. This test involves drilling holes through the concrete floor and measuring the amount of airflow required to move air from underneath. This data is combined with radon gas measurements taken by a radon sniffer and the contractor can more easily pinpoint the radon sources under the floor.

This testing is estimated to cost about $12,000. With all this information, the contractor can determine what type of mitigation system will work best for the building

The commissioners meet again at 9:30 a.m. April 9 at the courthouse.

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