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Greenwich High to Open Despite Tainted Soil

GREENWICH, Conn. — Despite the discovery of contaminated soil on athletic fields at Greenwich High School this summer, the school will open on time for the 2011-2012 school year, school officials said Monday. But all playing fields will remain closed until further notice.

They were quarantined Friday when the district learned that PCB levels near the ground's surface were higher than acceptable standards for residential and commercial use. That means they cannot be used by the school’s physical education program, for school athletics or by town and community groups.

“With the information available to date, plans are being developed to ensure that the high school will open as scheduled,” said a release sent out by the district Monday afternoon.

When workers began excavation of parking lots for the first phase of the Music Instruction Space and Auditorium Project, they discovered soil that was darker than samples found earlier in July while excavating the west lot at the school. The discovery prompted immediate environmental testing, and all work was stopped and all dirt covered and closed off.

The first tests reflected low levels of lead, arsenic, barium, the volatile organic compound polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB ) and some petroleum hydrocarbons.

The building committee then asked for tests of the soil as well as indoor and outdoor air. The air was found to be at acceptable, but the second round of soil tests revealed the same results as the first.

Kim Eves, director of communications for the Greenwich School District, said the data did not indicate that health hazards would result from exposure. However, additional testing is required for the west lot. Current plans are to remove the contaminated soil and return the lot to usable condition during additional testing.

When the next phase of evaluation is finished and a full testing schedule is formed, planning will begin to address field usage, programs, costs and how construction of the music space and auditorium project will be affected.

All updates on environmental testing at Greenwich High School will be posted on the Greenwich schools website.

Are you concerned for your student’s safety as a result of the findings? Will your community group or child’s team be affected by closure of the athletic fields? Comment below or email ahelhoski@thedailygreenwich.com.

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