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Goodyear closes playground after federal study finds toxins




April 16, 2005           Section(s): Frontpage         


The Brunswick News

Students at Goodyear Elementary School won't be spending any more playtime on the school grounds this April and May.

A federal government report raising questions about the possible presence of toxic chemicals in the soil around Goodyear has prompted school officials to confine physical education activities to the gymnasium and a public park on Parkwood Drive, about a half-mile from the school.

The decision to abandon the playground comes after elevated levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, large quantities of which may lead to cancer, were discovered in the soil at the school, located at the corner of Parkwood Drive and U.S. Highway 17. A precise source of the chemicals was not identified.

The playground will be closed as a precautionary measure until further tests are performed on the soil, said Jim Weidhaas, public information director for Glynn County's schools. More testing will likely be conducted during summer break, he said.

The decision to keep students inside was made this week by interim school superintendent Delacy Sanford and Goodyear Principal Carla Hall.

It follows a recently released report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which characterizes Goodyear Elementary as an "indeterminate public health hazard." The report is based on analysis of soil testing performed in 2002

In a letter sent home to parents of Goodyear students Friday, Sanford noted that there is not enough information at this time to determine if a health risk exists.

However, he added, "The Glynn County School System takes this new report very seriously."

Although the report says the limited data available does not indicate humans have been exposed to levels of contamination that would be expected to cause adverse health effects, it says more tests are needed.

New soil was brought in to cover the grounds at Goodyear and new grass planted after the school was rebuilt in the late 1990s.

Dick Newbern, a parent with three children at Goodyear, became aware of the situation when his 8-year-old son came home from school this week and told him he and his friends weren't allowed to play outside.

"I talked to the board of education and the Glynn Environmental Coalition and as far as I can tell, there's no reason for panic," said Newbern, who also serves on the Goodyear school council. "I think parents need to be level-headed about this."

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, byproducts of burning coal, oil, gas or garbage, have been linked to reproductive and skin disorders in animals. They are also thought to increase the risk of cancer in animals and humans.

In addition to Goodyear, tests were performed at Burroughs-Mollette Elementary School, Risley Middle School and Edo Miller Park. No hazard was found at any of those sites.



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