Thursday, October 7, 2004

School site to be cleaned of lead

EPA says Mason school site cleanup will begin next month

By Michael D. Clark
Enquirer staff writer

MASON - Potentially dangerous lead-contaminated soil soon will be removed from an abandoned shooting range here. The site will be fenced off and the air monitored to protect the health of residents in two adjacent neighborhoods, federal environmental officials say.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Department of Health and Mason school officials announced earlier this week that recent soil testing of a 47-acre site for a new Mason elementary school - scheduled to open in 2006 - revealed that about four acres of the open, unfenced field had lead levels considered unsafe for humans.

chart The Mason Road property is adjacent to the Hickory Woods and Parkside subdivisions. Some residents attended a public meeting Tuesday, where they heard for the first time the extent of lead contamination on the property that once was the site of a private shooting range.

EPA officials reported that 16 of 248 soil samples taken had lead concentration levels that averaged 586 parts per million (ppm), exceeding the federal minimum lead health standard of 400 ppm. Most of the contaminated acreage is just west of Hickory Woods Drive and easily accessible to children, who are most at-risk for disorders from lead exposure.

But EPA-contracted officials told the audience that temporary fencing and warning signs will be installed around the contaminated site. Work to remove 1,800 tons of contaminated soil is to begin next month.

Jerry Vogele, whose family lives within 300 yards of the site, said he was glad to hear the EPA plans to keep people out of the site while also monitoring the air quality during the removal of soil so no airborne contaminates drift toward nearby homes.

"It sounds like they are going to get the situation cleaned up, and I like the way Mason school officials handled this by keeping us informed," Vogele said in reference to a series of public meetings since the July discovery of the lead on the future school site.

There have been no reports of lead-related illnesses among residents in the adjacent communities.

Mason school officials also were pleased to learn that their costs, which might be partly or fully covered by federal environmental Superfund clean-up money, would be limited to an estimated $100,000.

Removal of the lead-laced soil will be completed by spring, when school construction is scheduled to begin. School officials do not expect the lead removal will delay the new school's anticipated opening in August 2006.



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