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Radiation levels exceeding Washington state and Federal EPA cleanup standards were found in a room attached to one of Seattle s most popular indoor sports arenas.

The U.S. Navy confirms the building or shed as a spokesperson refers to it was tested after a City Parks worker found signs indicating the area was once a radium room. The room is attached to the south end of the Arena Sports Facility at Seattle s Magnuson Park. It is a converted hangar used by the Sand Point Naval Station where radium was used to create glow in the dark instruments for military aircraft.

Washington State Representative Gerry Pollett is demanding to know why that information was not made public after it was discovered in 2009. He said radium is dangerous itself but breaks down into a radon gas, which is a known carcinogen.

The Navy responded Friday saying it did notify all the necessary state agencies, including the Departments of Health and Ecology. Ecology officials confirmed they were notified but not until just this week.

In a statement to KING 5 the Navy also said:

Areas identified during the Navy s investigation in 2010, with elevated levels of radiological contamination were secured with signs, fencing and locks to protect the public. The public is safe and not exposed to any known areas of radiological contamination.

Prior to the Navy investigation, access to radiological contamination was limited, as the contamination was covered by layers of flooring, piping, asphalt/concrete, and/or soil covering. The investigation conducted by the Navy and approved by Washington State Department of Health (WDOH) indicates that the public and workers in the area would not have been physically affected by the radiological contamination. The Navy is committed to protecting public health and the environment.

A spokesperson also said the Navy will announce next week its plan for cleaning up the entire site where the contamination was found.

Radium was banned for use in commercial products like glowing watches after it was blamed for sickening workers who made the products. The Navy has fenced off the affected area and posted signs, but have not issued a public statement about the presence of radiation in a public area.

Navy's response to KING 5 Questions

Navy Public Affairs Officer Leslie Yuenger responded to several questions asked by KING 5.

Q1-Has the radium room attached to Arena Sports been tested for radium contamination? And when?
A1-Yes, the radium room which has always been separated from the Arena Sports area by a structural wood framed wall was investigated by the Navy with Washington State Department of Health approval for radiological contamination in 2010.

Q2-What levels were detected? In relation to acceptable levels designated by EPA?
A2-Areas identified during the Navy's 2010 investigation, with elevated levels of radiological contamination that exceeded Washington State and EPA cleanup criteria were secured immediately with signs, fencing, and locks to prevent unauthorized access. Even the highest level of radiological contaminated material that was identified by the Navy in 2010 is classified as low-level radioactive waste. The public is safe and not exposed to any known areas of radiological contamination.

Q3-Who has been notified of this discovery?
A3-The City of Seattle notified the Navy. The Navy notified the Environmental Protection Agency, the Washington State Department of Health and the Washington State Department of Ecology. The Navy has also notified Federal, State and local elected officials, and neighborhood coordinators of the pending removal work and has offered to meet and provide a briefing.

Q4-What precautions have been taken to protect safety of people using park/arena sports?
A4-Areas identified during the Navy's investigation in 2010, with elevated levels of radiological contamination were secured with signs, fencing and locks to protect the public. The public is safe and not exposed to any known areas of radiological contamination.

Prior to the Navy investigation, access to radiological contamination was limited, as the contamination was covered by layers of flooring, piping, asphalt/concrete, and/or soil covering. The investigation conducted by the Navy and approved by Washington State Department of Health (WDOH) indicates that the public and workers in the area would not have been physically affected by the radiological contamination. The Navy is committed to protecting public health and the environment.

Q5-What was room used for?
A5-The radium room was used by the Navy in support of repair and maintenance of Navy aircraft. Radioluminescent (glow-in-the dark) paint was used in dials, gauges and markers. The Navy established radium paint shops or instrument repair shops where Navy personnel removed the original radioluminescent paint, then repainted the radioluminescent item. The use of radioluminescent paint was not regulated by a government agency at the time of the former NS Puget Sound; however, there were Navy regulations on health and safety requirements. Today, use of radium is controlled by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and state radiation health departments. Military and commercial entities stopped using radioluminescent paint in the late 1970's. The Navy is committed to cleaning up Navy radiological contamination found on this site.

Q6-What are its dimensions?
A6-The former radium room is approximately 20' x 30'.

Q7-Why wasn't action taken earlier?
A7-The Navy took action upon notification by the City of Seattle in 2009 and conducted an investigation in 2010. During the Navy's investigation, contaminated sediment was removed from catch basins and contaminated building materials, including flooring and piping, were also removed. Remediation to clean up the identified remaining radiological contamination is planned to begin in late May 2013. The Navy is committed to cleaning up Navy radiological contamination found on this site.

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