Testing Continues at Contaminated Park - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

10/14/03

Testing Continues at Contaminated Park

There's more concern for a place that should be safe for your kids to play, as the East Broad Elementary School playground remains closed. They found both lead and arsenic in the soil, and though the amounts were minimal, but school board superintendent John O'Sullivan decided to close the playground down anyway.

And at the request of parents, tests have been taken from inside the school too. "I'm happy to report that the building is clean," said the BOE's James Harvey. "They have done testing on the hallways, they did testing in the gym, in the dining room, they even did the testing on the water, and the building is clear as a bell."

Experts continue to test the soil at the playground. School officials say they will be sending out a letter to parents explaining the latest group of results.

The East Broad playground isn't the only place affected by the test results. The Mother Matilda Beasley park next door to the elementary school is also still closed. Chatham County is having its own tests done to determine if the park is safe for public use.

WTOC attended a community meeting last night sponsored by the Citizens for Environmental Justice, who aren't taking the test results lightly. Parents, grandparents and other concerned citizens showed up so the county and the school board would know they want results and they want answers.

Assistant city manager Pat Monahan described the testing process to attendees, saying, "The football field we took eight samples. The baseball field we took seven samples. The playground we took seven samples. I can tell you, every single one of those samples came up clean. Out of all the samples we took, we had two hits of lead within [a] grove of trees."

Citizens for Environmental Justice are making sure they know what's going on. "I am concerned about the health and welfare of our children," parent Carolyn White said at the meeting.

Asking questions and voicing concerns, attendees area keeping a close eye on what the county is doing to ensure Mother Matilda Park is properly tested and cleaned up. They're also letting the county know of recurring health problems their kids are suffering, to see if it's a side affect from arsenic or lead poisoning. "Children just don't have headaches to have headaches," concerned mother Clara Mae Curry said. "And they just don't have nosebleeds."

"I've a had a grandson that was having migraines headaches for no apparent reason," said attendee Evonia Baker.

County commissioner Joe Murray Rivers listened to his constituents' concerns and told them he will work on getting children tested for contamination. "We're going to do whatever's necessary to get to the bottom of this problem, mitigate it, and get it out of the way," he said.

And the Citizens for Environmental Justice are going to make sure Commissioner Rivers stands behind his words, getting the park back to being a safe place for children and their families. "We are the watchdog," said the group's Dr. Mildred McClain. "We are not going anywhere."

The Citizens for Environmental Justice will be holding another meeting in two weeks. There will be experts from the Environmental Protection Division as well as from the county health department to go over any new results. Commissioner Rivers said he will be making some calls to see about getting the children tested for possible lead and arsenic contamination.

Reported by: Holly Bristow, hbristow@wtoc.com

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