Parks, fields closed as town awaits contamination results
FAIRFIELD — Twenty parks and fields are closed as the town investigates potential contamination from the toxic Public Works fill pile.
The majority of sites are temporarily closed by the Parks and Recreation Department and Board of Education pending results from tests performed this week. The Gould Manor Park sidewalk area, meanwhile, has been officially cordoned off for remediation following results indicating elevated levels of asbestos, lead and arsenic in the fill on Holland Hill Road.
The town released an initial list of potentially affected sites to be tested last Friday, citing an ongoing inventory of projects that used the fill between 2013 to 2016, when Julian Enterprises managed the pile.
Julian’s suspicious management of the pile was the subject of a lengthy criminal investigation that culminated Aug. 6 with the arrests of Superintendent of Public Works Scott Bartlett, Director of Public Works Joseph Michelangelo and the company’s co-owner Jason Julian.
The three men were arraigned on illegal dumping and corruption charges in Bridgeport Superior Court and are scheduled to appear in court again on Sept. 18.
After the arrests were publicized, residents voiced concern over potential use of this contaminated material in Public Works projects. This moved the town’s Department of Health to hire licensed environmental professional Tighe & Bond and work with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the state Department of Health to compile an initial list of 20 potentially affected areas.
The initial inventory prioritized school grounds and public parks, the town said. Additional sites will be added to the list as they are identified.
The list includes Gould Manor Park, the first site to be investigated for potential contamination from the fill pile. The town began collecting soil samples from the area Aug. 7 after residents surfaced previous complaints of glass and asbestos pieces in the area around the sidewalk.
After two rounds of testing, the town announced Tuesday night that the site would be closed for remediation due to the presence of levels of arsenic and lead above the regulated permissible levels, as well as pieces of shingle containing asbestos in the fill.
The sidewalk area, the town said, will remain closed until remediation is complete.
The 19 other sites on the town’s initial list are currently undergoing testing, scheduled to be completed this week. Tighe & Bond Vice President Jim Olsen said that school sites are being prioritized, and their results should be available by the end of the week.
Although the town originally planned to leave these sites open in the interim by recommendation from the state entities involved, the Parks and Recreation Department and Board of Education announced Wednesday that they’d close many out of “an abudance of caution,” pending test results.
The Parks and Recreation Department closed Burroughs Soccer Field, Dougiello Softball Field, Oldfield Soccer Field, South Pine Creek Soccer Field, Sullivan Football Field, Town Hall Soccer Field and Lower Tunxis Hill Soccer and Baseball Field.
The school district closed all of its sites on the town’s initial list, including: Burr Soccer Field, Dwight Soccer Field, Holland Hill Soccer Field, Jennings Soccer Field, McKinley Soccer Field, North Stratfield Soccer Field, Riverfield Soccer Field, Woods Middle School Soccer Field and Mill Hill’s lower playground grass.
Additionally, as a precautionary measure, the district has expanded on the town’s testing schedule and closed school fields not on the town’s list. It will test these sites independently from the town.
These sites include: Dwight Softball Field, Ludlowe Front Field, Practice Field and Softball Field, Warde Front Field, Practice Field and Softball Field, Woods Middle School Baseball Field, Osborn Hill Softball Field, Roger Ludlowe Soccer Field, Roger Sherman Soccer Field and Softball Field and Statfield Space Field.
“In the interest of student and staff safety, now is the time to ensure that all fields are safe to use,” Cummings wrote in an update to the community.
Cummings said that the fields will remain closed when the school year begins on Aug. 29, and adjustments will be made to accomodate physical education and athetlics.
The school district will follow a similar testing procedure to the one outlined by the town, in consultation with the same licensed environmental professional Tighe & Bond.
The town’s initial list also cited conservation work at Lake Mohegan, as well as the grass at the Jennings Beach playground.
The Fairfield Citizen’s website has a detailed map of sites to be tested, which has been continually updated with closure status and test results.