Thursday, December 18, 2003

Kings holding bag on lead

Tentative pact calls for it to pay all or part of $2M bill

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DEERFIELD TWP. - Financially strapped Kings Schools may have to pay part or all of a $2 million tab to clean up toxic lead buried on its school grounds, according to a tentative agreement with the federal environmental officials announced Wednesday.

The proposed agreement designates the Warren County school district as the only legally responsible party for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's mandated cleanup of buried toxic lead near Kings Senior and Junior High School.

It was negotiated during a conference call Wednesday, said Kings Superintendent Charles Mason.

Mason declined to say when the final agreement is expected to be reached. He said, however, that it could prove favorable to the district in reducing its responsibility for its portion of the estimated $2 million cost of removing the toxic lead, which lies about a foot deep in the soil of the school's football stadium, and baseball and practice fields.

"It was our goal from the start to limit our fiscal liability, and I hope we will not have to pay the $2 million," said Mason of the school's negotiations with EPA officials.

The toxic lead, left behind decades ago from a nearby munitions factory's test grounds and a private shooting club, was discovered in August.

In September the district was pummeled by a destructive windstorm that disabled Kings' bus fleet, closed school for two days and cost the school system more than $300,000.

The district is facing long-range budget deficits after the defeat of a $43 million bond issue in May.

Chicago-based EPA officials involved in the negotiations were unavailable to comment. However, Dayton-based EPA On-Scene Coordinator Steve Renninger said the cleanup, which will involve removing about a foot of contaminated soil, will begin in February after further testing now being conducted is completed next month.

Renninger said the cleanup should take about four months.

EPA and school officials will conduct a joint public meeting to discuss negotiations and answer questions 7 p.m. Jan. 13 at Kings High School.


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