PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — People living at an apartment complex in west Boca Raton say they're scared for their health and safety after radon was found in the property.
The new Uptown Boca Apartments were the first multi-family construction to be built in west Boca in two decades, but many are wondering if it’s safe to live there.
Uptown Boca opened in late 2020 with over 450 units starting at $2,300 available to rent.
About a month ago, people living here started to learn there were high levels of radon
"I had no idea what radon is," said resident Robert Navone.
Navone said they quickly Googled, leading them to find radon is a gas that can lead to lung cancer after long exposure.
Resident Elisa Root said the last few weeks have been insane for her family.
"It was very scary for them, especially my son on the way to school asking, mommy am I going to get lung cancer? That is not something a parent wants to try and answer," Root said.
Root and Navone both contacted Mark Wahl at Waypoint Inspections East to have a radon test done in their apartments.
"The first test we did was the 17th of August," Wahl said.
Wahl said he’s had a dozen tests done since. According to Wahl, those 12 units he has tested for radon, all of them have elevated levels. He said radon should usually be under four picocuries per liter.
Root said her average was 6.4 pCi/L and Navone said his was 10.9 pCi/L.
Wahl mentioned he has tested on multiple floor levels and in six different buildings, leaving him to believe radon could be leaking from building materials used during construction.
"The rock that is in the aggregate, that is built into the building, it is coming out of the ground contaminated, by nobody’s fault," Wahl said.
Navone said people living here have made the property owners aware of the radon. Cortland, which just purchased Uptown Boca in August, told residents in an email on Wednesday that they were aware and a company has been hired to mitigate the problem.
"At the end of the day, I am not going to risk somebody having lung cancer," Navone said.
Navone said radon is not their only issue. They have also been dealing with mold in their bedroom.
"All over the walls, all over our cloths and the hallway," Navone said.
Navone said both he and his wife have been feeling ill since moving in this summer.
"We actually got the COVID test three time because we didn't know what it was," Navone said.
Root also has had mold issues, but in the garage she is renting.
"It was like overnight all of a sudden you could see mold blooming all over everything in the garage," Root said.
Root said she lost thousands of dollars worth of stuff because it was so bad. Both Navone and Root said the complex had blamed them for the mold
Root said the high radon was the last straw.
"We all left immediately," Root said, adding that she and her children found a temporary place to live.
Navone has been living in a hotel for the last two weeks.
Both said they likely won't return to their apartments, and Navone said legal action isn't out of the question.
"We want the problem solved number one before money," Navone said.
WPTV went looking for answers if the property developer and owners were aware of the radon. In a statement from the property developer, they said:
"As is typical with all of our projects, we designed and constructed Uptown Boca to the highest quality and standards. It is not uncommon, given the South Florida building code and the significant amount of concrete used in construction to potentially have limited amounts of radon that exceed governmental standards. In anticipation of a potential issue, we went above and beyond building code requirements by installing a passive radon mitigation system throughout the project designed by industry professionals. Our understanding is the current owner of the property is taking the necessary measures to initiate the system if they determine there is a need."
In a statement from the current property owner, Cortland, they said:
“Resident safety is always our primary concern. Because of this, we developed a plan before we purchased the community to mitigate these concerns. We are committed to demonstrating transparency and accommodating our residents, and look forward to hearing and addressing resident feedback. We are excited to be a new member of the Boca community and look forward to being here for years to come.”
For more information about radon from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, click here.