Carilion clinic to reopen

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Facility had been closed due to elevated levels of radon

Staff Report

Carilion's Family and Internal Medicine Clinic in Galax will reopen Monday, after closing for more than a week to address an elevated level of radon gas, and the Galax Family Practice walk-in acute care clinic and the Vaughan-Bassett Employee Health Clinic will reopen on Saturday.

The clinic at 199 Hospital Drive closed after receiving results of an environmental consultant's tests for radon, prompted by an employee’s concern that the building’s air quality was at risk, said Carilion Public Relations Manager Christopher Turnbull.

The tests found radon levels that were elevated, though normal for this region of Virginia, Turnbull said, noting the clinic closed “out of an abundance of caution” and to undertake mitigation efforts.

“After consulting with Carilion’s Employee Health Department, safety experts and an independent environmental consultant, we are confident that the building is safe for our employees and patients,” Turnbull said in a statement on Friday.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. It typically moves up through the ground to the air, and can get into buildings through cracks and openings in the foundation. The buildings trap radon inside, where it can build up.

There are no immediate symptoms from exposure to radon, though the EPA says there is a risk of lung cancer with prolonged exposure, usually over five to 25 years. There is no evidence that other respiratory diseases, such as asthma, are caused by radon exposure, the EPA said.

Since Sept. 22, Carilion Clinic has been working to address the higher than normal radon levels. “Carilion worked with the building’s owners to install a temporary ventilation system to reduce the level of radon in the building,” Turnbull said. “They also are working to implement a long-term solution to continue to meet the practice’s needs in the future.”

Earlier this week, an environmental consultant retested the building’s air to confirm that radon levels are at an acceptable level per EPA guidelines — below 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L), Turnbull said.

“On Wednesday afternoon, we learned that the levels are now below the EPA guideline, at 2.2 pCi/L in the downstairs of the facility and 1.0 pCi/L upstairs,” he said.

During the closure, Carilion also took the opportunity to test for mold and asbestos. “Test results, which were received [Friday] afternoon, showed no concerning levels of mold or asbestos in the building,” Turnbull said.

Last year, the clinic closed to address a black mold problem. “Given the challenges with air quality in the Galax facility over the past year, we have established quarterly air quality testing,” Turnbull said Friday.

He thanked the community “for your patience and understanding as we resolved this issue.”

While the Galax facility was closed, Carilion referred patients to its clinic in Hillsville.

Patients needing to confirm an appointment can call the Galax practice. Internal Medicine can be reached at (276) 236-6136; the Family Medicine practice can be reached at (276) 236-5181.