SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

January 9, 2014

New plan to address contamination

SALEM — Cleaning up contaminated soil in parks and playgrounds is nothing new in this “dirty” old city.

Millions of dollars have been spent in recent years at Bertram Field, Furlong Park, McGrath Park, Peabody Street Park, Witchcraft Heights School and other sites.

Next up is Splaine Park, a nearly 2-acre playground hidden behind stores and homes near the intersection of Highland Avenue, Essex Street and Boston Street. Although a small park, it is an important field for Salem Little League.

As with other projects, however, the city discovered the contamination after work had begun, stopping everything in its tracks late last year. The high lead levels in the soil are likely from coal ash dumped there years ago, an official said.

“It’s part of the whole urban fill issue,” Mayor Kim Driscoll said.

An architect hired to redesign the park and a licensed site professional overseeing environmental issues have come up with a novel and possibly less-costly solution, according to city officials. They plan to remove the contaminated soil from several hot spots and, rather than trucking it away to a landfill, bury it in a clean, capped embankment inside the park.

The embankment would be built beyond left field and could be used by spectators watching the games and by young children as a play area, according to a city official.

Building the embankment, however, likely means a planned dog run will not be included in the final design.

The city will hold an informational meeting Monday to discuss the planned changes to Splaine Park’s design. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at 120 Washington St., the City Hall annex.

The cost of the cleanup has not yet been determined.

In addition to the Little League field, the renovated Splaine Park is expected to have a gazebo, play structures and an irrigation system.

The city received a $420,000 state grant for the project and matched it with $216,000 in city funds. Salem received a $42,500 grant last year from MassDevelopment to assess the level of contamination.

The project was scheduled to be completed this past June. Due to the contamination, the city received an extension to this summer.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.

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