Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Cleanup of lead contamination at Kings finishes one day early

The Enquirer

DEERFIELD TWP. - Four light poles are all that remain of the Kings Junior/Senior High School athletic complex after cleanup of lead-contaminated soil found there 10 months ago.

"We're glad it's over. We're done - a day early," said Charles "Chuck" Mason, superintendent of the Kings Schools. "We're now ready for the next step of our journey."

Tuesday, school officials gathered with Environmental Protection Agency supervisors to mark the end of a five-month, $2 million, federally funded cleanup under the direction of Steve Renninger, on-site coordinator for the U.S. EPA's District 5.

The cleanup began in February, about six months after soil tests confirmed that lead pellets from a former shooting range on the property had sunk deep into the soil. The soil was tested after environmentalists came across a 1957 aerial photo while doing research on the nearby former Peters Cartridge munitions factory.

Tests showed that lead concentrations in the soil - more than 30 years after the shooting stopped in the late 1960s - were far above what health experts considered safe.

The heavy pieces of machinery that demolished the George E. King Memorial Stadium are gone now. Gone also is the parade of trucks used to remove 24,000 tons of lead-contaminated soil from 12 acres of the 50-acre complex.

And gone are the monitors that continually checked the air quality during the cleanup, paid for with Superfund dollars.

What remains now for the district is to determine how it will replace the stadium and reconfigure the high school baseball and softball fields and two practice fields that were dug up during the cleanup.

"From the very beginning this was an issue that was going to bring us together or tear us apart," Mason said. "We're celebrating. This has been a significant learning experience. We've come together."

Athletic Director Matthew Koenig said the district has permission to use Galbraith Field one more year for football and soccer. Tents probably will be pitched and used as changing areas for home and visiting teams because the former College Football Hall of Fame building is being demolished, and along with it locker rooms and restrooms.

"Everybody's kind of adjusted. It's not the ideal situation. We're rolling with the punches to do what's best for kids,'' Koenig said.

Although the details and financing are not final, a new stadium and eight-lane track should be finished by August or September 2005, Koenig said.

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