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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

Columbus officials will consider four options to clean up a section of a Near East Side park that was ordered closed after it was discovered that youth soccer teams were allowed to play there despite high levels of arsenic and other contaminants.

RELATED: Toxins in Active Soccer Fields Known About for Years

RELATED: City to Survey Residents on Effects of Tainted Park Fields

Yesterday, consultant Burgess & Niple submitted options to clean up Saunders Park that range from $1 million to $7.5 million. Three of the four options include removing 2 to 6 feet of soil. All options include covering the site with a cap of clean soil.

"I think these are all reasonable options," City Recreation and Parks Director Alan McKnight said yesterday.

McKnight said that a decision will be made some time in September. Mayor Michael B. Coleman will have to sign off on any plan, and Columbus City Council will have to approve any remediation contract. That likely would occur in October, McKnight said.

The existing irrigation system also will need to be removed and reinstalled, which will cost additional money.

McKnight said he wants the park cleaned up during the winter, and then will ask the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to review the work under a voluntary-action program that allows developers and property owners to clean up a polluted site. In return, the state won't force additional cleanups.

The 9 acres now closed would reopen in 2016, McKnight said. The park has a total of 14.5 acres.

Coleman ordered part of the park cordoned off after The Dispatch reported in September that parks officials allowed a youth soccer league to play there in the spring of 2013 despite a 2012 report that warned that arsenic and benzo(a)pyrene in the soil exceeded recreational standards.

Arsenic is a poison and benzo(a)pyrene is suspected of causing cancer.

Later, The Dispatch reported that parks officials knew in 2011 that high levels of arsenic, lead and other contaminants had been found in the park after preliminary tests were done.

Willis Brown, president of the Bronzeville Neighborhood Association, said the remediation has to be thorough. "We had tons of children playing on that field for many years," he said.

In the meantime, city health officials continue to review information gathered from residents who live adjacent to the park to see whether they've been affected by the toxins found at the park.

So far, there are no immediate health concerns, said Columbus Public Health spokesman Jose Rodriguez.

He said 25 residents have been interviewed at 17 addresses. Officials will visit about 50 houses. What they find will determine whether they go deeper into the neighborhood or try to find former residents who have moved away.

The park is just south of where a fertilizer plant was located. The plant closed in 1970. The Ohio EPA is trying to determine whether houses around the park were built on land the plant once used for operations. If so, the agency will ask owners whether it can test their soil.

The city opened a new pool at the park yesterday. Samples were taken from nine sites around the pool.

One of those sites, an area northeast of the pool, showed high levels of arsenic. McKnight said that area has been fenced off and will be cleaned up.

Lela Boykin of the Woodland Park Neighborhood Association said she is comfortable with the pool's opening.

"I'm going to go with some degree of trust," said Boykin, whose concerns about the park prompted the city to test the soil and water at the park in the first place.

"I encouraged them to communicate openly with the community about what is going on."


Cleaning up Saunders Park

Burgess & Niple presented four options to Columbus Recreation and Parks officials to clean up contaminants at Saunders Park. The consultant did not recommend any one option.

* Plan: Remove the top 2 feet of soil over 7.6 acres and use it to create 4-foot berms along the northern edge of the park. Cover site with more than 2 feet of clean soil from off site. Cost: $1.6 million to $1.9 million

* Plan: Cover 9 acres with more than 2 feet of clean soil from off site. Cost: $1 million to $1.2 million

* Plan: Excavate an average of 4 feet of soil from the 9 acres, and an additional 2 feet of underlying clean clay soil. Place 4 feet of the impacted soil in the excavation. Cover with 2 feet of clean clay soil. Cost: $2.2 million to $2.6 million

* Plan: Excavate 4 feet of impacted soil over 9 acres and dispose of off site. Cover with 4 feet of clean soil from off site. Cost: $7 million to $7.5 million

Source: Burgess & Niple


Photo and Map
(1) Logan Riely / Dispatch Teishawna Jones uses the newly opened pool at Saunders Park. The pool has been deemed safe even though soil elsewhere in the park has shown evidence of arsenic and other contaminants. City officials are studying cleanup options for the park. (2) The waterslide of the new pool at Saunders Park overlooks the soccer fields, which remain closed because of contaminants. Mayor Michael B. Coleman ordered closure of part of the park after The Dispatch reported in September that a youth soccer league was allowed to play there in the spring of 2013 despite a 2012 report that warned that arsenic and benzo(a)pyrene in the soil exceeded recreational standards.


August 16, 2014




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