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Lead-contaminated fields still waiting for cleanup in NYC

May 18, 2018  - By

The Red Hook Recreation Area is your run-of-the-mill park with all the staples for a community to enjoy: soccer fields, baseball fields, wide open areas. Except it isn’t like every other park; it’s contaminated with lead.

This local park in Red Hook, which is in New York City’s Brooklyn borough, has been the center of attention after the discovery of lead in the soil in 2015. The New York parks department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) swiftly acted in closing the affected areas down, but there seems to be a widening gap between the time of closing the community spot and fixing it.

The $107 million cleanup project by the New York City parks department for the most contaminated fields, the ones that were the first to close, has been pushed back a year due to delays in the construction bidding process, reports the New York Times.

A bit of background

From the 1920s to the 1930s, Columbia Smelting and Refining Works, which manufactured metals, released lead dust fumes and waste into the air and soil. The building was demolished around 1940 and then that city block was turned into four baseball fields and two cricket courts.

Flashing forward 70-plus years, the NYC Parks & Recreation department tested the soil for lead at the park and found elevated levels across Ball Fields 5, 6, 7 and 8 — the fields sitting on the site of the old Columbia building.

This is when the department called in the EPA.

The EPA came in and sampled soil from those fields, as well as from several athletic fields throughout Red Hook Park.

The results of the sampling showed lead in the surface soils at elevated levels across Ball Fields 5, 6, 7 and 8, the EPA released in its report. Those fields were then closed, and will remain closed until cleanup is complete.

The EPA also said lead from Columbia was also found in the soils at Ball Field 9. However, the results did not show elevated levels of lead in the first 12 inches of soil, so this field will remain open for public use until cleanup begins.

Where the issue stands

At the end of April, a meeting was held to update residents on the progress of the project. It boils down to this:

The design/engineering part of the project is completed for the cleanup of fields 5-8, and now it is entering the construction part.

According to the EPA’s notes from the public meeting, on-site construction will most likely last 12-18 months and will include the removal of all park features, grading and the installation of all new features — including curbs, fencing, benches, portions of sidewalk, fountains, lighting, utilities, turf, trees, ramps/stairs, bioswale and more.

The parks department’s project tracker states the project will convert the four ball fields from natural turf to synthetic turf.

The parks department hopes to have the project procured by July 2018. Construction would then follow.

The design/engineering part of the project is still ongoing for the cleanup of field 9.

The project tracker states the design process is 80 percent complete. In addition to remediating the contaminated soils, this project will convert a ball field and soccer field from natural turf to synthetic turf as well.

The rest of the cleanup, which will include other fields in the park and a soccer field reconstruction, is projected to be completed by 2021.

This article is tagged with and posted in News, Parks/Recreation
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About the Author:

Kelly Limpert is the former digital media content producer for North Coast Media. Limpert completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She specifically creates content for North Coast Media’s Golfdom, Landscape Management and Athletic Turf digital properties including eNewsletters, social media and websites.

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