Board of Ed discusses Stratfield playground safety

The Board of Education discussed test results from Stratfield, Ludlowe and McKinley schools.

The Board of Education discussed test results from Stratfield, Ludlowe and McKinley schools.

Rachel Scharf / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — The Board of Education discussed field testing at Stratfield, Ludlowe and McKinley at its meeting Tuesday night.

Discussions of Stratfield’s playscape dominated the debate, as Board members questioned the extent of remediation required.

In an update on Stratfield, Superintendent of Schools Mike Cummings affirmed that the playscape at the school is safe for use.

Testing results released Friday showed levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) above the residential limits at Stratfield. However, Cummings said, both the state Department of Public Health and licensed environmental professional Tighe & Bond have confirmed that the mulch barrier at the playground is sufficient to protect against exposure.

“We all take very seriously any of the results we find, and we react very deliberately and cautiously to those results,” Cummings said. “We are very much in the service of those who know best and can provide recommendations.”

Cummings added that they have determined that the playscape was previously the site of a parking lot, explaining the compounds discovered there. He also noted that additional investigation has revealed a rubber membrane between the mulch and the soil, adding even more protection.

Some Stratfield parents expressed concern with these findings during public comment, saying that the playscape should be completely remediated. Board member Trisha Pytko also questioned the decision of the district not to perform remediation.

“I think the concern is that we’re just leaving it there,” Pytko said. “I’d be concerned if I had a child that went to school there, knowing that there’s something in the soil.”

Cummings and other board members countered that remediation can take multiple forms, and in this case it would likely have consisted of adding a mulch layer between the soil and human contact. Because that mulch layer is already there, noted Board Vice Chair Nick Aysseh, no additional remediation is necessary.

Board Chair Christine Vitale suggested that going forward, they be more vigilant and ensure that the depth of the mulch is maintained sufficiently each year. Director of Operations Angelus Papageorge said every playscape’s mulch layer is measured and added to twice a year.

Cummings also provided updates on other test sites, saying that some polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) had been found in the courtyard area at Ludlowe. Cummings said this contamination is likely decades old, left over from when the site was home to Mill Plain Elementary School.

He said the area will need further testing to determine the nature of remediation, and that the specifically affected area will remain cordoned off while the rest of the grass area is opened.

Cummings also said that additional testing at McKinley has determined that the playscape is safe for use and will be reopened. The potential area of concern has been located on the edge of the soccer field, and that spot will remain cordoned off.

The Fairfield Citizen’s interactive testing map has been updated to reflect this new information.