Concerned Fairfield residents take to Facebook

The Jennings Elementary School soccer field was closed to rid the area of arsenic.

The Jennings Elementary School soccer field was closed to rid the area of arsenic.

Rachel Scharf / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — Tensions are running high as parents send their children back to schools with cordoned-off fields and playscapes.

Fields at Jennings, Mill Hill and Riverfield are closed for remediation following tests showing slightly raised levels of arsenic and PAHs.

While fields at Burr, Dwight, McKinley, North Stratfield and Fairfield Woods have been reopened following clear soil samples, the district has closed for independent testing all other school fields and playscapes. Superintendent Mike Cummings said they hope to have results back next week.

Residents have spoken out with concerns about their children’s health and safety, attending public meetings and forming the Facebook group “Fairfield Fights Toxic Waste.” The group, which had 376 members as of Friday afternoon, has become a hub for residents to discuss field and park contamination.

Fairfield residents Meghan and Damien Teed created the group last week after they grew concerned about the safety of their own children, who attend Riverfield.

“Hearing about how people are so fired up about the issue and seeking more information, my husband and I decided to create a page and see if we can get this to go viral,” Meghan Teed explained.

The group includes citizens of varying ages, as well as members of town bodies such as the RTM and Board of Education.

Teed said her goal in creating the group was to have a space for residents to share and read information from all different sources and spread the word about what’s going on.

Group discussions have also veered into politics, with residents posting and commenting about town officials and their responses to the issue.

Teed said that she has barred some members from the group who have shown distinctly political aims, but that it is difficult to separate testing concerns from the politics of the town.

In an attempt to assuage concerns Thursday, the Health Department shared state officials’ responses to emails from Fairfield parents on the town’s fill use testing webpage. The post included emails from two parents of Jennings students, which expressed frustration and worry over their children’s health and safety.

In response to these messages, both the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the state Department of Health assured parents that the matter is being adequately handled.

“DEEP is receiving regular updates from the town of Fairfield and its environmental consultant on the environmental assessment work and remedial plan currently underway,” wrote Robert C. Isner, director of DEEP’s Waste Engineering and Enforcement Division. “There is ongoing collaboration between the various agencies to address all of the concerns being raised within our respective jurisdictions.”

In another response, Meg Harvey from the Connecticut Department of Health explained that the levels of arsenic found at Jennings were only slightly above the residential standards, which are designed to address children touching bare soil 365 days a year - a level of exposure far greater than children would get at school sites covered by grass.

“All soils have background levels of arsenic,” Harvey added. “It is entirely possible that the arsenic measured at Jennings School is due to background conditions rather than placement of fill. The results from Gould Manor Park, Jennings School and the other tested schools show that concentrations of contaminants detected in the soil are not high enough to present a public health exposure risk to children or adults using the areas.”