Lead in the Land

By Christopher Werth May 16, 2019

WNYC Tested for Lead in 3 NYC Parks. See here for the results.

“Testing on a first order would be the most important thing, and then you can share that information,” said Landes. “You and I can make informed decisions about maybe where our children make mud pies and where they don’t make mud pies. But you don’t necessarily have to immediately close down a whole park just because there are a few samples that might be above a certain threshold….”

“…Cheng recommends covering contaminated areas in parks — either with clean soil, mulch or landscaping fabric — as opposed to removing it, which can cause its own set of problems. The city already operates what it calls a “Clean Soil Bank” that helps identify uncontaminated sources of soil. These originate from construction projects in Queens that are digging up largely untouched glacial deposits that then get distributed to sites that need it.

….That said, the lead levels WNYC found in parks are relatively low compared to many private yards. Cheng’s lab offers soil testing to the public for $10 a sample. It’s analyzed close to 3,000 of them from across the city, including community gardens. The highest tested at nearly 9,000 ppm. The average for many yards ranges from 400 to 1,200 ppm…

“In New York, I’ve just been very surprised at how high the levels are…”

Update May 22, 2019: After this story ran, the office of Corey Johnson, Speaker of the New York City Council, responded to WNYC with the following statement: “The council is concerned about limiting childhood lead exposure from all sources, including soil. We are working on a second round of lead bills, including bills that address lead levels in soil. We expect to pass those bills before the end of the year.”

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