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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
September 22, 2013 Sunday
NEWS; Pg. 1A
|Environment; Park toxins didn't stop kids league;
Mark Ferenchik, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Despite a warning last year that a Near East Side park contains elevated levels of toxic substances, a city youth soccer league was permitted to play there this past spring.
League play was scheduled to resume yesterday at Saunders Park, but on Wednesday, Mayor Michael B. Coleman ordered Recreation and Parks officials to move the games after he learned about a 2012 report that warned of elevated soil levels of arsenic, a poison, and benzo(a)pyrene, which is suspected of causing cancer.
The report, prepared for the city, recommended limiting use of the park and halting scheduled sports. Parks officials had said use of the fields was limited.
As for the mayor, "he's not happy," said Dan Williamson, his spokesman. Parks officials told Coleman about the report after The Dispatch asked about its findings and recommendations last week.
The report, which Burgess & Niple gave the city on Oct. 15, says soil analysis had found that the levels of arsenic and benzo(a)pyrene exceeded recreational standards. It was the second of two reports by the company.
The consultants recommended that use of the land, just south of the site of a fertilizer-manufacturing plant that closed in 1970, be limited to 26 days a year: "Since this is a park setting, it may be difficult to monitor the frequency of use by individual children and adults. As such, it is recommended that the ball fields not be used for scheduled sports at this time."
Recreation and Parks officials said they will ask the city for $142,000 to pay Burgess & Niple to perform additional tests and create a risk assessment for the park, which is off Atcheson Street south of I-670.
"They'll determine what remediation is needed," said Alan McKnight, recreation and parks executive director.
McKnight said the contaminants were found in the fields north of both the playground and an area where the city is putting in a swimming pool.
Before Coleman's decision last week, parks officials had said the fields are OK because they are rarely used. McKnight said fall and spring soccer seasons each last six weeks, and teams don't practice on the fields. The city runs a youth soccer league at the park with Gladden Community House in Franklinton.
"It's very limited, a couple of hours at a time," McKnight said. "It's not more than 26 days."
Franklinton resident Shannon Hickey is a coach in the youth soccer league and has five children, ages 4 to 13 years old, on teams. She said parks officials should not have scheduled games at Saunders once they knew of the dangers.
The city hired Burgess & Niple last year after community activist Lela Boykin expressed concern about the potential health hazards at Saunders. Boykin is the chief operating officer of Neighborhood House, which is near the park and provides such services as day care and a food pantry.
"If the land, the site, is still contaminated, we'd like to have it cleaned up so it would be safe for children and families," Boykin said last week.
Arsenic can cause nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nervous-system disorders and death. Benzo(a)pyrene, a suspected carcinogen, is formed during the burning of coal, oil, gas or garbage.
McKnight said the soccer games will begin on Saturday and are being moved to Sycamore Fields at Three Creeks Metro Park.
Photo and Map
Tom Dodge / Dispatch Excavation at Saunders Park is preparing for a swimming pool. In park fields to the north, tests last year found elevated soil levels of arsenic and a suspected carcinogen.
September 22, 2013