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Greenwich Football Begins Despite Soil Problems

GREENWICH, Conn. – After weeks of uncertainty, the Greenwich High School football team began preseason practices on time at Cardinal Stadium. And head coach Rich Albonizio is just glad his team can practice on its home turf at all. However, it's possible the team may not be able to play home games because of contaminated soil near the bleachers.

Recently, all school playing fields were closed after testing revealed high levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in the soil of some fields. At Cardinal Stadium, traces of arsenic, lead and pesticides were found, but no PCBs. The stadium is currently the only Greenwich High field deemed safe to use.

The tricky part comes later this week when the boys and girls soccer teams and the field hockey team begin practice. That situation will require some impressive juggling of the sports schedule.

"There have been a couple things we've had to improvise on, but so far it hasn't been a burden," Albonizio said. "They're thinking about the safety of not only the players, but the whole community. Of course, that comes first."

While the Cardinal Stadium turf has been declared safe, the ground surrounding the stands has not. The bleachers have been cordoned off because of high PCB levels. If the levels do not drop by the start of the season, Greenwich will have to play home games at another location.

"We're lucky to have an athletic director like Gus Lindine. He was a football coach and he's used to dealing with adversity," Albonizio said. "They still have to test the grass by the tennis courts and behind the [bleachers] so people can walk up here. If those areas are safe, then we'll be able to play up here."

Albonizio said that Lindine is looking at possible sites to rent. He could not comment on exactly where, but did say they were "close by."

"A football field is a football field," Albonizio said. "Just give us a field and we'll be happy."

Were you surprised by the discovery of PCBs at Greenwich High School? Do you think the fields will be safe by the start of the fall sports season? Start the discussion below.

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