The Gloversville Enlarged School District is taking action to address a contaminated playing field next to one of its elementary schools.
Kingsborough Elementary school in Gloversville is across the street from an abandoned tannery, a relic of the city’s industrial past. This summer, environmental testing conducted by company Ambient Environmental revealed that pollutants including tannery waste were present in a playing field beside the school.
Superintendent David Halloran said the district took precautions after heavy spring rains damaged the field. The field became rutted and uneven, with standing water in places and a sulfurous odor.
“It’s been speculated that that tannery waste in our field came from that factory, but we don’t have any evidence of that,” said Halloran.
Air testing was also conducted inside and outside the school, where concentrations of volatile organic compounds were found “well below all OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits” – the district says the air quality is safe inside and outside the building.
The board of education has approved funding for a temporary fix for the field. Halloran said $150,000 to $200,000 would be used to place a so-called “geotextile” fabric over the field, under two feet of compacted sand, and another six inches of topsoil.
“At that point, the field can be used as a playing field safely. There will be no contaminated water rising to the surface. We’re confident it can be safe for student use for as long as we need to, but that is not our end goal. Our end goal is complete remediation of the contaminated soil, which would allow the district to use that field for a possible parking lot in the future, or splitting the field in half so we can build something on it,” said Halloran.
Halloran said the district in Fulton County plans to apply for federal funding for full remediation – something that could cost up to $4 million. In the meantime, he said there’s no evidence that children were affected.
“Kids did not play in the standing water. There was no hazardous material on the surface. We have no evidence to suggest the children were exposed to anything hazardous to their health,” said Halloran.
The field beside the school has been fenced off, with students due back just after Labor Day. Kingsborough Elementary Principal Trisha Bobowski said environmental testing was done when students were not present.
“They did the test pits this summer so it wasn’t during the school year. So, at this point, the kids aren’t using the field. No one is using the field until we remedy the situation,” said Bobowski.
This is not the first time there have been concerns about contamination in the field. An environmental study of the site was conducted in 1991. The school itself was built in 1972. The study determined that tannery waste was at the site prior to the construction of the school.
The report said remediation work for soil and groundwater did “not appear warranted except as a risk aversion measure.”
Through a letter to parents, an open board meeting, and a q and a session this week, Bobowski said families and staff have been informed of the issue.
“We wanted to make sure that we are very clear and open about everything for our parents,” said Bobowski.
The school will be open when classes resume next week.
For more information visit: https://www.gesdk12.org/soil-and-air-testing-summer-2019/