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Signs Posted at Contaminated Soccer Fields; Is That Enough?

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Copyright 2013 The Columbus Dispatch
All Rights Reserved


The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
September 26, 2013 Thursday
NEWS; Pg. 1B
444 words
City's signs close fields where soil is polluted;
Mark Ferenchik, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

After a Dispatch story was published on Sunday about contaminants, including arsenic, at Saunders Park, the city placed park closed signs around the soccer fields there on Monday.

But some in the Near East Side neighborhood say the city should do more to protect people as officials await further testing.

"Basically they should have fenced it all off," said Daryle Green Sr., a private security guard who was visiting his father on nearby Atcheson Street.

"If they're finding problems in the soil, they should have notified everyone in the neighborhood."

The city did not tell residents last year that levels of arsenic and benzo(a)pyrene in the soil beneath the soccer fields exceeded recreational standards, or that a consultant that performed the tests recommended that the city halt scheduled sports on those fields.

The city has no immediate plans to fence off the fields, said Alan McKnight, executive director of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department. "I think we're going to monitor it.

"If we need to, we'll take additional steps," he said. "The field has historically not gotten a lot of use."

A youth soccer league was scheduled to begin its fall season there last Saturday until The Dispatch asked questions about the test results reported in 2012.

Mayor Michael B. Coleman ordered city parks officials last week to move the soccer games to other parks.

Burgess & Niple conducted the tests on the fields south of the site of a fertilizer manufacturing plant that closed in 1970.

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.

Rebecca Asmo, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Columbus, said the city never told her about the tests.

"Our soccer teams, which played as part of the (city's) KIDS soccer league, did in fact practice at Saunders Park often," Asmo wrote in an email.

In an interview, Asmo said that in the spring, teams sometimes practiced at Saunders.

She wishes the city had told her organization and others about the findings.

"Anything like that, it piques my concern," she said.

"We really should have been talking about it together."

Recreation and Parks officials plan to ask Columbus City Council to approve paying Burgess & Niple $142,000 to perform additional tests and perform a risk assessment for the park.

Back on Atcheson Street, Green's father, Raymond Dodson, said the city should clean up the soil across the street at the park.

Asmo said she hopes the city keeps her and others informed. "Kids' safety should be the No. 1 priority for all of us."

mferenchik@dispatch.com

@MarkFerenchik

Photo and Map
(1) Jabin Botsford / Dispatch Because of soil contamination, the city has posted signs closing the soccer fields in Saunders Park on the Near East Side, but it does not plan to fence them off. (2) Lavetta Couch helps niece Emani Smith, 3, on monkey bars at Saunders Park while daughter Maya, 4, climbs on. Couch's brother Anthony Smith, background, watches them. The playground soil is not contaminated.
September 26, 2013

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