BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – The Briarcliff Board of Education took a step Monday night toward repairing the school's practice field eight years after it was found to be unsafe for student use.
The Briarcliff Board of Education unanimously agreed Monday night to remediate the district's practice field using a natural turf option. The board’s decision allows site investigation company HDR to submit an official remediation action plan and soil testing results to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC would ultimately need to approve the plan before construction and student use could resume.
Board President Guy Rotondo said Monday's vote was meaningful for the board, which had first reviewed the process more than two years ago.
"This is a very exciting opportunity for us," Rotondo said following the decision. "It's been two years in the making."
DEC inspectors found the softball field and practice field to be contaminated with "non-exempt" material in 1999 and issued a violation to the school district. The fields became contaminated in 1998 when a trucking company reportedly deposited about 100,000 cubic yards of fill that did not meet DEC requirements. according to officials. The district started cleaning up and sampling the fields but further remediation ceased in 2004 when the board of education opted not to fund additional probing. Instead, the board decided to deposit additional fill on the fields and cover up monitoring wells.
Using natural turf was one of several options for the board along with using synthetic turf and capping with asphalt pavement. The board previously agreed to use the natural turf option in the remediation of the softball field at a prior meeting. Michael Musso, environmental engineer for HDR, said he agreed with the recommendation to use natural turf on the practice field.
“As mentioned, we feel they’re all approvable remedies,” Musso said. He later confirmed that DEC representatives would have to agree to the proposed site management plan and ensure that both the softball and practice fields would need to meet public health and safety requirements on a regular basis. “The DEC is tasked with ensuring any protection to health in the environment.”
Musso did not recommend an impermeable barrier below the proposed soil work because it could create further environmental concerns, but noted the DEC would have the final decision on the plan after all reviewing all of HDR’s submitted data and input.
“These are recommended remedies. The DEC reviews everything,” Musso said. “What I will say is, DEC has tweaked remedies we’ve worked on.”
Trustee Eric Bashford mentioned that the board is currently facing possible litigation in relation to the school’s fields.
“I’m sure the community is aware of some health tragedies, which may lead to litigation with the district,” Bashford said.
Attorney Michael Bogin, with law firm Sive Paget & Riesel, told board members there was no legal obligation to disclose the notices of claim to the DEC. The board later discussed and verbally agreed to taking a proactive approach to notifying the DEC and all other regulatory agencies of any claims relating to the fields. Bogin later recommended residents with individual concerns submit written statements to DEC to be included in the discussion on possible site plan approval.