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Fields Closed At Greenwich's Western Middle School Until Further Notice

Western Middle School
Western Middle School Photo Credit: Anna Helhoski, File

GREENWICH, Conn. — After soil samples were found to have significant environmental hazards, the fields at Western Middle School in Greenwich are closed until further notice as a precautionary measure, officials announced Wednesday.

Fencing will be installed and signs will be posted Thursday, notifying the community that the fields are closed and may not be used.

According to preliminary reports, the hazards pose a potential short-term health risk to exposed individuals or the environment, said a join release from the Greenwich Public Schools and Town of Greenwich.

The decision was based upon these reports after consultation with the Town and State Departments of Public Health.

The levels of "environmental constituents" exceed the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection residential direct exposure criteria. However, according to the reports from Langan, the town’s environmental consultant, concentrations do not exceed federal or state regulatory thresholds requiring immediate reporting or action.

Although Greenwich is not obligated by state or federal standards to close the fields based on these initials findings, First Selectman Peter J. Tesei and Interim Superintendent of Schools Salvatore Corda agree with Town DPH recommendations that it is in the best interest of students, families, staff and the community to close the fields until a plan of action can be developed and implemented.

Environmental testing was initially conducted on the Western Middle School field soil because the New Lebanon School Building Committee was evaluating the construction of temporary swing space for its students on a portion of the Western Middle School property.

As part of the evaluation, Langan was contracted to sample soils in the proposed construction area to evaluate potential environmental concerns.

After initial testing was completed, Langan presented a Human Health Risk Assessment based on their findings to the State DPH for review. The State DPH requested that the remaining portions of the Western Middle School playing fields be included in the overall assessment.

While the NLS Building Committee has since determined that Western will not be used as a temporary swing site for the construction project, Greenwich Public Schools administration continued with the testing in order to finalize the HHRA as requested by the State DPH.

The test results found elevated levels of lead, arsenic, PCBs and the pesticide chlordane.

Although currently in draft form, the results indicate that potential health risk estimates for PCBs, lead, arsenic, and chlordane are within acceptable EPA limits, and there are no known significant or immediate risks posed to staff or students.

Western Middle School’s soil analytical data and HHRA are currently under review by the local and State DPHs.

The school is safe for use, the town said. The precautionary measures taken by closing the fields prevent direct contact and potential ingestion of on-site constituents from the soil.

Wind-borne dust particles for students and staff at Western Middle School was evaluated and the risks were calculated to be well below federal EPA’s negligible risk levels.

The fields will remain closed until the local and State DPHs complete their review.

Langan will complete and submit its findings to the State Department of Public Health for review on or before Tuesday, Sept. 6. Upon completion of DPH review, an appropriate and acceptable course of action will be determined for the safe reopening of the fields.

Western Middle School Principal Gordon Beinstein, with support from the District’s Facilities Office and Town Parks and Recreation, will develop a plan for addressing the impact that closing the fields will have on outdoor physical education classes, as well as for interscholastic and intramural sports programs.

Greenwich Department of Parks and Recreation also will assess the impact of the loss of use of the fields and develop a plan in the next several weeks to reasonably accommodate Town recreational programs that use the Western fields.

The environmental findings for the Western Middle School fields testing and the Human Health Risk Assessment will be posted upon receipt to the GPS website , along with project updates.

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