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Greenwich Fields Reopen After Contamination Tests

GREENWICH, Conn. – All athletic fields at Greenwich High have reopened — just in time for spring sports — following the latest round of soil and groundwater testing.

“For now, smaller areas will remain fenced. We’re still doing tons of sampling out there to fully characterize the site,” said Amy Siebert, commissioner of the Department of Public Works. “We have a long road ahead to figure out what will have to be done.”

While environmental studies done during the December break found no new areas of contamination, officials decided more testing was needed to determine where and how deep chemicals are present. In July, workers excavating parking lots for the school’s auditorium project, known as “MISA,” discovered soil that was darker than dirt.

Immediate environmental tests began on the soil. Low levels of lead, arsenic, barium, volatile organic compounds, PCBs and petroleum hydrocarbons were found.

Athletic fields were closed, forcing high school teams to practice on middle school and elementary school fields. All work was stopped, and the contaminated area was covered and closed off.

“The real focus was to minimize the potential to have direct contact with impacted soil,” said Mike Doherty, a representative of AECOM, the environmental consultant hired by the town.

Smaller areas of the field were excavated and others will remain isolated with fencing, which shouldn’t impact games, says Siebert.

In looking at historical drawings of what the area looked like before the school was constructed in the 1960s, public works found the area once contained a pond or a deep area of the nearby brook. “It appears this area was filled in for school construction. This may help explain where some of the PCBs come from,” the released states.

A survey will be done to determine if any of the homes within 500 feet of the site get water from groundwater wells.

The district's 2012-13 capital budget includes $600,000 to remove contaminated soil. Public Works plans to update the Board of Estimate and Taxation by late winter or early spring on the cost. The department has put together a 2012-13 funding request for $1.5 million for additional investigation and to prepare for remediation efforts.

“We can’t get under some of these fields until June and we won’t have information until late summer," Siebert said. "The goal is to have a better understanding of what we’d like to do out there, then find out how much that might [cost].”

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