Cleanup begins at Jennings Elementary School in Fairfield
But the testing did show the toxic metal at both Jennings playgrounds in October. The contamination, officials said, was traced to pressure-treating chemicals used in the playgrounds’ wood framings that leached into surrounding soil.
The framings, sometimes referred to as railroad timbers or railroad ties, are an older system used for bordering playgrounds. According to the EPA, chromated arsenicals, a chemical containing arsenic, was used from the 1970s to early 2000s to pressure-treat the majority of outdoor wood. As of December 2003, the EPA restricted the use of the chemicals.
Superintendent of Schools Mike Cummings said in an email to Jennings parents on Nov. 22 that contractors would be on site Saturday and Sunday removing the contaminated soil and framings from both affected playscapes.
The school district has contracted ACV Enviro to perform the work. While RED Technologies has been charged with cleanup at other town sites, bringing on an additional contractor has allowed cleanup to occur at multiple sites at once, Cummings said.
According to the site’s remedial action plan, the framings would be removed first, followed by the soil immediately surrounding the framings at a depth of two to three feet. The soil was to be excavated and dumped at a certified off-site facility.
Cummings told the Board of Education Nov. 21 that they would need to remove about 250 tons of soil.
“It’s railroad cars full of soil,” Cummings said. “It’s an extensive project.”
The remediation approach, designed by licensed environmental professional Tighe and Bond, was reviewed by the state Department of Health and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
Cummings also confirmed to the Board of Education that the town still intends to foot the bill for the cleanup. The Board of Finance had previously set aside $1.8 million for testing and cleanup at the seven contaminated town sites discovered this summer.
Cummings told parents that the playgrounds would be fenced off during cleanup, and an environmental consultant would be present to monitor air quality levels. He also asked families to avoid the school grounds over the weekend while work was performed.
“Many thanks to the Jennings community for their patience during this process,” Cummings wrote to parents. “It took too long.”
Cleanup is ongoing at Gould Manor Park and Burroughs Park. Plans are also in the works for removing contaminants found at Mill Hill Elementary School, Jennings Beach Playground, Old Dam Road and McKinley Elementary School’s former playground.
Readers can follow cleanup progress via Hearst Connecticut Media’s breakdown and map of sites.