Monday, May 9, 2011

Test the damn parks!

In the past year, Salem has tested soil at two of its parks. They've both come up contaminated and been closed. Last June, Furlong Park, along the North River, was found to be contaminated with lead and other chemicals and has been fenced off ever since. Just this past week testing was performed at McGrath Park, and the lower fields there have now been closed as well. The culprits this time, lead again, and cadmium, which can cause chronic kidney disease, even at low exposure levels, and can even be fatal. It sound like Furlong Park may reopen in the next month or so, ending its closure at about a year. The prognosis for McGrath is less clear, as the problem has just been discovered and it will likely be a long time before those fields are reopened.

My question is this. Why aren't we testing most or all of our parks at this point? Doug Bollen said last week that there were no plans to test any of the other parks. This Salem Patch piece confirms, right from the mayor's mouth, that no other parks will be tested. This seems like a foolhardy choice, when two parks on opposite sides of the city have both been found to be contaminated with lead. The city claims that it would be too expensive, but that's a little hard to swallow when sending 300k to this consultant, or 900k to that one doesn't cause the city to bat an eyelash. How much can 30 soil sample tests cost? I thought I'd look. It appears that soil sample testing can be done at UMass Amherst for as little as $9 per sample, or $270 for all of the remaining parks. I'm sure the city could raise that money if it wanted to. Heck, I'm offering to cover a third of it right now! That's right, get a soil sample from each park and I'll pay for 10 of the $9 tests. Who is with me?

At that point, "we can't afford to test" sounds like a really, really lame excuse. Isn't it much more likely that the truth is closer to "we can't afford to know?" I asked the mayor, along with my Twitter buddy @LizPW why we wouldn't test, but she didn't answer. (To be fair, frequently she does.) If it truly is that we don't want to know, that's really shameful, and won't help anyone's conscience if a kid gets sick from our parks. If the $270 is really too much to swallow, take my $90, look at the prior uses of the parks, and test the ten that are most likely to have contamination issues. Clearly some have much higher likelihoods of problems based on those past uses. The teachers unions frequently like to tell us that "it's for the children" when they have their hands out. This time, it really is. Make sure our kids are safe in our parks. Who wouldn't support that?


  1. So for $2700 you could test ten samples from every remaining park.

  2. I'm in for 10 tests too. With a 5yo who gladly plays for Salem Youth Soccer, (and we will continue to do so) and frequents area parks, I'd be happy to help keep our parks clean and environmentally safe.

  3. Comida Restaurant stated on Twitter that they'd pay for 10 tests as well.

  4. I would like to see all of our parks tested, too. This is very worrisome.


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