Fairfield Health Department: More tests show Riverfield is safe

Riverfield's playground is fully open for use.

Riverfield’s playground is fully open for use.

Rachel Scharf / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — Despite prior information, no cleanup will be required at Riverfield Elementary School.

A previously closed area next to the playground has been reopened, after additional testing determined that the soil was clean.

This has raised confusion among some residents who were under the impression that the area would undergo remediation. The Health Department, however, said additional, more complex testing confirmed that the area is safe for use.

Riverfield was on this initial list of sites to clean up after the first round of testing in August found slightly elevated levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in one of six soil samples.

Town-wide testing began when information surfaced that fill from the Public Works pile had been used on projects during the time it was managed by Julian Enterprises.

The fill pile is the subject of an ongoing criminal case that led to charges against two town employees and Julian Enterprise’s co-owner, who are accused of conspiring to allow Julian to dump truck loads of contaminated waste into the town’s fill pile.

Julian then resold some of the contaminated soil as clean fill for construction projects in the town. After licensed environmental professional Tighe & Bond tested 60 sites at parks, fields and playgrounds, the town identified eight areas that needed to be cleaned up.

At that point, the town said they would remediate Riverfield “out of an abundance of caution” even though the state Department of Health advised that the low levels detected there would not pose any health risks.

An second, more complex test released Sept. 27, however, found no PAHs above the state standards in any of the nine samples taken.

Health Director Sands Cleary explained that this is standard testing practice, where additional testing allows a licensed environmental professional to get a more precise picture of an area that originally raised flags.

“It is somewhat analogous to when a screening test that indicates additional testing is necessary, but then additional testing reveals there is not a concern that requires action,” Cleary said.

Tighe & Bond, Cleary explained, performed a statistical test that took an average of the soil concentrations in the area to determine that the area was in compliance with residential exposure standards.

A similar process was followed at Sullivan Football Field, South Pine Creek Soccer Field and Town Hall Soccer Field. At these three sites, initial samples detecting contaminants were clarified by later results that deemed the fields safe.