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Briarcliff Fields Clean-Up Cost: From $1.45M to $18M

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – Soil and groundwater sampling of two athletic fields in the middle school/high school complex found that levels of some toxic chemicals and metals did not meet standards set by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, environmental engineers said Thursday.

John Guzewich, a project manager with HDR, a company that performs site investigations, explained during a two-hour presentation at Briarcliff Middle School that samples were methodically gathered from the topsoil of both the practice field and softball field, as well as the "shallow fill" up to 1 foot below the sod, from test pits excavated to 6 feet below the sod, and from groundwater.

Guzewich said results revealed higher than acceptable levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, according to state DEC standards, and also the presence of some metals, including lead and barium. PAHs vary from being nontoxic to highly toxic, and some PAHs are carcinogens.

"The conclusion is that the risk to an individual is very low, but over the years it could start to add up," said Robert Laumbach, a family physician with a specialty in occupational and environmental medicine.

Michael Musso, an environmental engineer with HDR, explained that there are three pathways for exposure to toxic materials in the athletic fields: ingestion, skin and inhalation. When a risk analysis was conducted, engineers concluded that the level of risk was in a "decision area" in between an unacceptable range where action is needed and a safe range where no action is needed.

In order to be able to safely use the athletic fields again, landscape architect Ron Tetelman presented four options: "capping" the fields with a layer of acceptable topsoil and restoring them with natural grass, capping and restoring with synthetic turf, capping and restoring with asphalt pavement, and removing the fill material all together and restoring with natural grass.

The estimated cost for remediating the two fields ranged from $1.45 million if they are capped and restored with natural grass, to $3.65 million if they are capped and restored with synthetic turf, to $18 million if they the fill material is removed altogether and the fields are restored with natural grass.

"I don't advocate any option,” Tetelman said. “They will all solve the problem and get those fields back in use.”

The softball field and practice field in the back and front of the high school/middle school complex were contaminated in 1998 when a trucking company deposited about 100,000 cubic yards of fill in the fields that did not meet state requirements for being "clean,” according to the DEC.

In 1999, DEC inspectors said the fields were contaminated with "non-exempt" material and issued a violation to the Briarcliff school district. The school district began cleaning up and sampling the fields, but in 2004, the school board at the time did not choose to fund the rest of the field study. Instead, school administrators at the time decided to deposit additional fill in the fields and to cover up monitoring wells.

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