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Lambertville Playground Closed Because of Contaminated Soil

5-7-14

By Christie Duffy
Correspondent

There was no playtime at the park today for Milo Miller and his 4-year-old daughter.

Miller has been bringing all three of his kids here for almost a decade, but today the gates were locked and warning signs are posted. This father was shocked to learn why.

“Kids play there. So you always want a safe environment for your kids obviously,” Miller said.

Lead, beryllium and what are called PAHs were found in the soil beneath the playground. All can be toxic and cancerous, if you breathe in or ingest enough.

The elements are found in oil and coal, and locals say they have likely lurked beneath park goers feet for decades.

“Historically, we were a factory town. We had at one-time a rail yard. We had five different factories,” said Lambertville Mayor David Del Vecchio.

Plans to remodel the park led to the discovery of the contamination.

“All we know is that they exist and that they are above the established acceptable levels,” said T&M Associates Consulting Engineer Krista Heinrich.

Samples taken deep beneath the top soil last August tested positive for lead above the state limit. Tests for beryllium were also positive, and just slightly above the recommended limit for groundwater contamination.

“We found additional levels since then. At that point in time, we decided that we weren’t gonna close the park,” Del Vecchio said.

Signs were posted warning of an environmental investigation. The DEP conducted further testing on the park.

But it’s since been locked and plans to remediate are underway. It’ll take six months. During which, up to a foot-and-a-half of top soil will be hauled out. And fresh dirt will be brought in.

“So now we know why and hopefully they’ll get it all cleaned up and it’ll be a nicer park in the end,” said Miller.

The town plans to hold a public hearing and take questions on the contamination next Wednesday night. Two professors from the Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School tell NJTV News that finding concentrated levels of lead is not unusual in urban soil. And they feel confident the contaminant levels found here in Lambertville are not a risk to public health.