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Town Orders Summer Testing of Greenwich High Soil

GREENWICH, Conn. – More than 800 soil and groundwater samples have been taken at the fields at Greenwich High School to determine the levels of contamination, but the town says more testing is still needed this summer.

The district plans to sample under fields 3, 4, 6, and 7 in June and July to have a more complete understanding of the overall conditions. The town must wait until sports activities are completed to have greater access to the fields.

A feasibility study will begin this summer as well to identify and evaluate cleanup alternatives, including a cost estimate, in order to finish by late fall. The cost of cleanup was a major concern at the May meeting of the Representative Town Meeting when the body approved Greenwich’s $404 million budget for the next year.

“After completing the feasibility study, the team will still have much work ahead, including remedial planning and design, and coordination with regulatory agencies for approvals to move forward,” according to a statement issued Thursday evening by the town and the Greenwich Board of Education.

Thus far, the town and AECOM, an environmental consulting company, have conducted 786 soil samples, 11 groundwater well samples, 22 groundwater samples from the installed wells, 32 sediment samples and seven surface water samples.

Over the school’s spring break in April, 49 additional soil borings were completed around the fields and additional groundwater samples were collected from monitoring wells.

Overall, the samplings show that contamination is focused mainly in areas where fill material was imported when the school was built: beneath the west parking lot, as well as at fields 2, 3 and 4. However, the contamination does not extend beneath the school buildings because it was built on top of bedrock, not fill. In addition, there does not appear to be any migration of chemicals off site.

The contamination was found in July 2011, when workers excavating parking lots for the school’s auditorium project, known as MISA, discovered soil that was darker than other dirt. Immediate environmental tests began. 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 construction work was stopped, and the contaminated area was covered and closed off.

All athletic fields at the school opened in March after smaller areas of the field were excavated. Other contaminated areas remain isolated with fences. Since the fields opened, the town has continued to study the site to determine what the long-term remedial measures will be.

In the soil, a variety of chemicals have been found, including PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, total petroleum hydrocarbons, and metals such as arsenic and lead. In the groundwater, PCBs were not found in wells around the perimeter of the site, but there are higher concentrations in a well located in between Field 3 and the west parking lot. PAHs and other organic chemicals were found sporadically in wells in the central portion of the site, as were arsenic and barium.

Eleven maps and drawings showing the data and scope of contamination are available on the Greenwich Public Schools website.

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