Industrial waste dumping from the early 20th century is the primary suspect behind recently discovered contaminants that have shut down a popular city park in Cleveland, according to this story.
The City of Cleveland started renovations on the 12.5-acre W.C. Reed Playfield over the summer, but that plan was put on hold after soil tests discovered elevated levels of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (or PAHs) on the site.
PAHs are typically a byproduct of petroleum processing or combustion and can be highly carcinogenic at relatively low levels, according to the U.S. Geological Survey website.
The State of Ohio requires remediation of recreation areas where PAHs pose a cancer risk greater than 1 in 100,000. PAH levels at the park are measured at 5 in 100,000, with the primary concern that children could accidentally eat or inhale contaminated dirt or dust.
The park has been fenced off, but city officials say it’s not an emergency, saying the chance of developing cancer from second-hand smoke is 15 in 100,000.
Cost of the original renovation project was $350,000. The cleanup would likely require removal of the contaminants and new layer of topsoil, which is estimated to cost $1.5 million.
The contaminants were discovered after testing showed elevated lead levels at a neighboring property. City officials said industrial debris was dumped at the site in the 1940s and 50s.