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Briarcliff Schools Send Natural Turf Option Forward

Cleanup plan for contaminated athletic fields must still pass muster with state officials.

Capping a year of debate and discussion, the board voted unanimously Tuesday to cover with barrier layers of clean earth and natural turf.

The board’s chosen remediation plan—at about $2 million the least expensive of , including asphalt or artificial turf coverings—must now go to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Health (DOH) for review and approval. Representatives from both departments were present at the meeting, Board President Sal Maglietta said.

"This plan is a build up of much work, investigation and working with the regulatory agencies throughout the process," said Maglietta. "This is to get the process started."

in part by recent reports—online, on the air and in print—that darkly suggested danger lurking beneath children’s feet, residents and visiting media took seats in the theater in advance of the vote. Maglietta opened the meeting with a written statement on which, he said, all board members had "agreed unanimously." In the statement, he outlined a history of the fields and clarified what he called points of possible confusion.

He emphasized the board closed the fields were closed in 2010, Maglietta said, after the DEC by the board of education when the Department of Environmental Conservation noted that regulatory approval—similar to what will be offered sought following this meeting—had was not been in place.

"Importantly, it should be noted that the DEC did not issue a notice of violation or an order of consent due to any toxic waste dumping," Maglietta stated.

He also said later, during the meeting, that in fact no lawsuits have been filed against the district pertaining to the fields, though three local families have filed notices of claim indicating they will seek damages related to their children's illnesses.

Briarcliff’s school board had devoted countless hours over the past academic year to meeting with environmental specialists, school and state officials and the public on this single issue. However, most of the members voting Tuesday night had begun their service only last month.

Maglietta and Vice President Jennifer Rosen were all that remained of the five-member board that received a . Nevertheless, all of the new members—Dina Brantman and Michael Haberman, , and Jonathan Satran, in July—were familiar, as frequently outspoken regulars at school board meetings, with the remediation issues and the solutions discussed last fall. Haberman was not present on Tuesday.

At that time, the board heard plans that ranged in estimated price from $1.44 million to just over $18 million and in technique from covering over the potential contaminants with grass, asphalt or artificial turf to digging up the problem material, hauling it away, then restoring the fields to their condition they enjoyed before 1998.

That’s when a Yonkers company, Whitney Trucking, was allowed to dump 110,000 cubic yards of landfill on the school grounds in return for building the fields on top of it. But instead of resting atop the promised “clean” fill, composed of organic and inorganic soil, with such things as small rocks, concrete and bricks, Briarcliff’s new fields—a softball diamond behind the middle school and practice facility near the —were built over illegal construction debris and demolition materials.

For many, returning both the softball and practice fields to their pre-1998 condition—the suspect landfill carted away, replaced by fresh, clean soil and natural grass—represents the most attractive solution. But, with a price tag of more than $18 million, it also represents by far the most-expensive alternative. A few residents urged the board on Tuesday to consider this plan.

One man, who identified himself as a village resident since 1998, said, "This is a dark cloud that surrounds us. And as human beings, and as parents, let's get this out...Let's put an end to it for the next few generations who live here."

Maglietta said the varying price tags are were not a driving factor in the district's decision.

"I do not equate cost with safety," he said. "Whatever is the right option, regardless of the cost, is the right option."

Resident Lori Degiuseppe asked Michael P. Musso, a senior project engineer with the district’s environmental consultants, Henningson, Durham & Richardson Architecture & Engineering (HDR), if there would be an impervious barrier will be placed between the contaminants and added layers of soil and grass.

Musso said a bright orange demarcation barrier would prevent future diggers from hitting the contaminated ground and said site tests taken at the school did not indicate any presence of "volatile organic compounds," appeared anywhere—which might require an impervious layer. Therefore, the proposed layer will be permeable.

Tuesday’s vote ratified the previous board’s long-held preference for the least expensive approach. For an estimated $1.44 million, crews will first place a the rubberized open gridwork Musso described—more to mark the bottom of clean material than to provide an impervious shield—directly over the potential contaminants. After adding a barrier layer of clean earth, tested for sanitary compliance, workers will top off the new material with a 4-inch soil layer, seed it and grow grass.

On the softball field, Musso said, seven inches of soil would be added. The practice field would have an additional 24 inches of soil given that it "traditionally had more wear and tear than the softball field," he explained.

The sloped area adjacent to the practice field will also be capped if the plan is OK’ed, at an additional cost to the district of about half a million dollars to the district.

The "remedial action plan" that will being sent to the two state agencies outlines the project proposal, and other options, as well as in addition to details detailing the findings of HDR's findings and those of previous consultants.

If the plan is approved as is or with notations from the state, Musso added, "There there is an entire site site-management process that would have to be put into play," Musso added.

This plan would involve calls for regular monitoring and testing at the fields to ensure they are being maintained well and continue to cover any contaminants.

Degiuseppe also inquired as to whether air quality samples had been taken at the schools.

"It should be noted, that the administration with the board of education, have met with district officials and the Briarcliff Teachers' Association and we are working with them to have that all testing done," said Maglietta. "They have selected the firm who will test it. We are not selecting the firm and we will be paying for it."

Asked by resident Mark Santiago about the a projected timeline for the project remediation, Musso said the district is eyeing groundbreaking at the softball field in the summer of 2013 and the summer of 2014 for the other two areas—the practice field and adjacent sloped area.

"Groundbreaking will not start when school is in session," he said. "We feel the remedies can be constructed during those time frames, but certainly when a contractor is brought on board for those sequences, those details will need to be finalized."


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John Fitzgerald August 28, 2012 at 07:13 PM
I'm confused, the Valhalla school district has 90,000 cubic yards of fill with high PAH levels, on the edge of Kensico Reservoir and the state never review, opined or even tested. Briarcliff fill pales compared to the mountain the carter (who is presently under indictment for dumping near the Croton Reservoir) dumped in Valhalla post 9-11, yet curiously no state involvement. Just a local department of health note to keep people off the sides because there seems to be a lot of PAH's on the sides, 2 inches of top soil should do the trick.

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