James Sunday knows the athletic field on his campus well. He’s not just a principal, but a Radford High School graduate.
“This field has been used for soccer, football games, marching band, graduations, things of that nature. and PE classes,” said Sunday.
Sunday said the plan was to replace an old cinder track with a new all-weather one.
But not long after crews began digging up the field and going about three feet below the surface, they began to find metal objects that made them wonder if this was a dump site.
It urns out it was.
“They did exactly this within two days, covered it and quarantined it. And they got experts in to start testing the soil,” Sunday said.
Reports show the initial concern was for asbestos. Three soil samples turned up positive.
In February an environmental cleanup company was hired to remove five bags of debris for disposal.
Soil samples also uncovered high levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and dioxin above acceptable levels.
“When they dug down they found what looked like old fill material and metal and debris. So, the public to our best knowledge, the students were not exposed to what was under the track, it was covered by clean soil,” said Deputy Environmental Director Gary Gill.
But what the contractor found triggered more studies.
The most troubling results were high levels found for lead.
According to health officials anything under 200 parts per million is acceptable or below actionable levels, but in 15 soil samples, results showed anywhere from 240-6,200 parts per million.
“That would be consistent with incinerator ash, something like that. So that is probably what we are looking at,” Gill said.
Administrators sent letters home yesterday apprising parents of the situation and assuring them area remains off limits.
Health officials say they received the final report last week and as an added precaution tested both campuses of Radford and Makalapa Elementary School for levels of lead Monday.
“We can confirm that the lead contaminated is limited to the track and field area and there is no exposure of those chemicals or metals thorough out those campuses.”
Of the 11 sites screened for lead this week–only one–the soil under the baseball field tested at 235 parts per million which is slightly higher than the acceptable levels of 200.
The schools were built years ago next to Makalapa Crater, which was used by the military as a landfill.
State officials said the Navy will be held responsible for the cleanup and still has to do more surveying in order to come up with a plan of action.
School officials have not yet heard how long that will take.
Radford is hoping to get the use of its field back –in July of next year.
The Navy did not immediately respond for our request for comment as to how long cleanup might take.
According to a statement released earlier, the military said it takes the contaminated debris very seriously.
It is reprioritizing funding and added contracting actions are underway to move quickly.