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Connecticut inmates, guards at Garner Correctional say they had been uncovered to radon gasoline

A federal appeals court recently found that Garner inmates and personnel have sufficient legal status to continue their lawsuit against the state.

A federal appeals court lets Connecticut inmates continue a lawsuit against the state and the Garner Correctional Institution.

The inmates, The Associated Press reports, say that correction officers knowingly exposed inmates to radon gas without taking steps to mitigate the danger. The lawsuit accuses Garner officials of having created unconstitutional, inhumane conditions under which extremely high levels of radon could contaminate the prisoners' homes.

Nor are the inmates the only ones to complain. A separate lawsuit filed by former guards and facility personnel is pending before a Connecticut state court. Several of the plaintiffs in this case state that they have contracted and are still suffering from respiratory diseases caused by radon.

According to The Associated Press, Connecticut has known Garner's potential radon problem for decades – perhaps as early as 1992, when the prison opened.

"The state knew the site was considered the number one radon site in Connecticut by the (Environmental Protection Agency) before it was built," lawyer Martin Minnella told the Connecticut Law Tribune in 2018.

Minnella of Middlebury, Connecticut-based law firm Martin Minnella, Tramuta & Edwards said the state had decided to continue construction even after learning about the EPA's assessment. And instead of making an effort to control radon exposure, Garner was built without improved water filtration or thorough borehole analysis.

Image via AlexVan.Pixabay. (CCA-BY-0.0). Public domain.

"According to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency and the US Geological Survey, which evaluated radon potential in the United States and developed a map of radon zones to help national, state, and local organizations and building codes determine whether radon-resistant features should be applicable to new buildings, Newtown, Connecticut is in Zone One – Highest Potential (…), the name of which reflects the average short-term radon measurement in a building without the implementation of radon control methods, ”the lawsuit said.

However, state officials have repeatedly insisted that Newtown was unable to measure radon accurately – and that radon can often only be detected in a new structure once it has been built.

However, officials did not begin testing for radon gas until 2013 when an internal educator submitted a request. The lawsuit also says that Garner's site was once used as a landfill site for the former Fairfield Hills State Hospital, making the prison structure more vulnerable to cracking and chemical infiltration.

According to The A.P. Connecticut has required radon testing in all types of classrooms since 2003. However, this standard was apparently not applied to the prison.

But when tests were done, they found a dangerous amount of radon in the prison's classrooms and then throughout the facility.

The Connecticut attorney general found that the court's decision to allow the proceeding to proceed only means that the state is not immune to the lawsuit and that its lawyers will continue to vigorously defend the State Department of Corrections.

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