Sunday, August 8, 2004

Agency to address lead at public Mason meeting

By Michael D. Clark
Enquirer staff writer

MASON - School officials here will arrange for representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to meet with parents and residents about toxic lead contamination at a new school site.

Mason school officials also said further testing of the 47-acre site of the planned elementary school off Mason Road will begin Monday for two weeks, with test results expected by the end of September.

Last month, Mason school officials revealed that they are the third Greater Cincinnati school in less than a year to discover potentially hazardous lead debris from an abandoned shooting range on school grounds.

Though only 4 acres of the 47-acre future site of the new Mason school appear to have lead levels considered unhealthy, Mason school officials say they are working with the EPA, which will conduct further testing and supervise cleanup of the site.

The Aug. 18 public meeting at Mason High School's Harvard Room begins at 7 p.m.

School officials arranged for EPA officials to field technical questions from residents in the nearby Hickory Woods and Parkside subdivisions.

Testing in those housing communities has not shown any lead-contaminated soil.

"At the meeting, community members will have the chance to ask questions, express their concerns and learn more about process," said Mason schools spokeswoman Shelly Benesh Hausman.

"As always, the safety of students and staff is a priority, and the district will address this issue before any work on the site begins. We are encouraged that the area where lead has been found is relatively small and undisturbed."

The planned school is expected to ease Mason's booming enrollment.

Michael Brannon, Mason's assistant superintendent of operations, said, "We are hopeful that this issue will be remediated in time for construction to start in spring of 2005.

"It is crucial that the early childhood center open in 2006 to accommodate our growing enrollment," said Brannon.

Last year, Kings schools, which borders the Mason district in Warren County, discovered extensive lead contamination.

Its $2 million cleanup - paid for by federal money - forced the demolition of Kings football stadium and baseball fields.

The toxic lead there was also from a private shooting range operated for years at the site.

Earlier this year, Cincinnati Country Day School, a private Indian Hill school in northern Hamilton County, also discovered toxic lead debris on parts of its campus stemming from a shooting range on the adjacent Camargo Club property.

School officials from both communities have said there are no reports of any former or current student or staff member suffering from lead-related illnesses.



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