By BRAD KELLAR
Levels of arsenic have been found at the Aunt Char’s Kidzone inside the Greenville SportsPark.
Acting Parks and Recreation Director Kimber Patterson said tests conducted during the summer determined the chemical was present in the wood used in the construction of the playground and in the soil at the base of the equipment.
In July, the city retained Freese and Nichols, Inc. to conduct a precautionary assessment of Aunt Char’s.
“They did wipe samples all over the structure,” Patterson said.
The play area was constructed in 2002 by local residents and the City of Greenville Parks and Recreation Department and named for an anonymous donor who contributed $80,000 toward construction. In 2006, the playground was rebuilt, again primarily by volunteers.
Wood treated with a preservative called chromated copper arsenate (CCA) — a mix of chromium, copper and arsenic — was used to construct the playground.
Numerous similar playgrounds in the DFW Metroplex were constructed using wood treated with CCA and there are no state or federal regulations concerning what is considered an acceptable level of arsenic in playground equipment.
The Environmental Protection Agency issued an advisory in 2008, in which it did not believe there was any reason to remove or replace CCA-treated structures, including decks and playground equipment.
Patterson said the areas where arsenic was found in the soil will be closed off in the coming week while the soil is excavated from the location and replaced with new mulch.
Freese and Nichols is expected to return to the playground at the end of October.
“They will retest that and see if it makes a difference,” Patterson said.
In the meantime, Patterson said anyone who had rented the pavilion next to the playground for an event is being notified of the situation.
“We did send them a notice,” Patterson said. “They are being told to wash their hands after using the playground and about not eating or drinking while on the playground.”
A portion of the Aunt Char’s has also been closed to the public since a fire damaged the playground early on the morning of May 12.