Happy Earth Day, Greenwich. Neighbors’ Soil Test Reveals Lead & Arsenic at Western Middle School, Proposed Site of New Leb Modulars

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View of Holly Hill and pile of millings from field at Western Middle School. Contributed photo

An email from District 3 RTM member and Chickahominy resident Dawn Fortunato circulated among town government on Wednesday. About a year ago, Fortunato began voicing concerns about contamination from the incinerator at the former town dump, now Holly Resource Recovery Facility.  On Wednesday, she emailed the New Lebanon Building committee results of soil sampling done on April 5, 2016 by Mike Finkbeiner, a land surveyor in Greenwich who is certified in CT and NY.

Earlier Wednesday morning, at the New Lebanon building meeting there was discussion of modulars to house students at Western Middle School during construction of their long awaited school to replace the 50’s era school that is very overcrowded.

“There was a motion voted on to seek a separate modification to the building code to allow for modulars on-grade, Clare Kilgallen said in an email asking for a short summary of the meeting. “This was done to give the NLBC flexibility in options regarding the modulars.”

Kilgallen said there was also a motion passed to form a Safety Committee, and that the meeting was over before the email from Fortunato arrived in NLBC inboxes.

The gist of the email was that Ms. Fortunato accompanied Mr. Finkbeiner as he took soil samples in the vicinity of Holly Hill and Western Middle School. Finkbeiner had the samples tested by the same lab the Town of Greenwich uses for its storm water testing program, Complete Environmental Testing in Stratford.

Finkbeiner and Fortunato said the sample from Western Middle School field raised a red flag. Specifically, the results show concern for lead and arsenic.

In an email on Wednesday, Finkbeiner said the Town dump incinerator spread municipal incinerator ash around Town from 1938 to its closure in 1978 and beyond.

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Mountain of millings at Holly Hill. Contributed photo

“Raw ash embankments are still exposed at Holly Hill behind the Good Will trailer, with high lead and arsenic leachate flowing into Tom’s Brook and adjacent properties with every rainfall,” Finkbeiner said in an email Wednesday afternoon. “It should also be noted that Holly Hill dump is being used to stockpile 8,000 cubic yards of asphalt roadway millings.  Runoff from this mountainous pile at the dump bypasses the holding pools, and flows into Tom’s Brook, which is part of the connected waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act.”

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Aerial photo of Western Middle School field and Holly Hill. Contributed photo

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Finkbeiner said the immediate downstream uses are: left bank downstream, a playground for 3 to 5 year-olds at the Family Centers facility inside Armstrong Court;  on the right bank downstream, Community Gardens, which grows food to contribute to Neighbor-to-Neighbor.

Lastly, Finkbeiner said his recommendation is for thorough  screenings for lead, arsenic, PCBs and pesticides at all Town playing fields.  “Children are particularly at risk,” he said.

“Happy Earth Day, Chickahominy and the town of Greenwich,” Fortunato said Wednesday afternoon, reached by phone. “The soil sampling revealed lead and arsenic levels above the legal limits for humans. It came in at 600 ppm and the threshold for safety is 400. That was just one sample. Where is the Town’s testing?” she asked.

She said a variety of public and school play sites near Holly Hill were tested, and that one part per million is 1 milligram per kilogram of soil, a typical unit for soil tests for metals like arsenic and lead. One part per billion is 1 microgram per kilogram, a typical unit for pesticide or drinking water.

Fortunato said she had received an email reply from Stephen Walko, chair of NLBC, telling her that on Wednesday morning, Selectman Drew Marzullo who is ex officio on the building committee, made a motion to authorize a Phase I and perform additional soiling testing but that the motion was not seconded.

“He told me, there was general discussion that if the Selectmen or any other Town body want testing at Western or any middle school – or any town property, they should put it on their own agenda,” she said. “We have younger children playing on this property. I’m appalled the NLBC didn’t second a motion for the health and safety of these children.”

Fortunato said she wasn’t blaming town officials, because their predecessors did this. “But if we’re going to be stewards of public health and safety,” she said. “Let’s get to work.”

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View of Western Middle School from far side of field, adjacent to Bimbo Bakery.

Fortunato’s email to the NLBC she said, “The neighbors of the Booth cul de sac, took the initiative and performed due diligence and hired a land surveyor, Michael Finkbeiner, to undertake a preliminary assessment of soil. Samples were obtained along the edge of the playing field behind the school.”

Fortunato directed the NLBC to sample #3 which reveals elevated levels of lead and arsenic (for residential areas) enough to warrant remediation according to CT DEEP standards.

As for Arsenic, 10 parts per million is the mandatory remediation limit for contact.  “The BOE is proposing to let New Lebanon students play on the field during recess periods, but with no testing in advance of their decision,” Finkbeiner said, adding that Western Middle School is adjacent to Holly Hill, as are Christiano Field, Armstrong Court, and Booth Court.  Hamilton Ave and New Lebanon Schools are close enough to be of concern.

*See below for lab test results.

“My opinion is based upon EPA and CT-DEEP standards for pollution in soil and water,” Finkbeiner said. “I am not pressing a personal opinion, except to emphasize that play fields near Holly Hill, or fields known to have received incinerator ash (including Cos Cob Power Plant), should be subjected to a reasonable standard of test screenings for environmental hazards to children playing on them.”

“The authorities have failed to budget adequate money and resources to reasonable precaution.  The High School and William St. Byram play fields, along with Byram Park Pool, are evidence enough that a change in policy is needed.”

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This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

  • Bob Whitman

    Good for them! Think the town fears others will do this? People wouldn’t if the town was truthful.