Danneel, Annunciation and Taylor playgrounds closing for lead removal from soil

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Environmental scientists Melissa Saint James and environmental technican Daniel Gallego, of Materials Management Group, Inc. put up a temporary fence at Annunciation Park Wednesday afternoon. Annunciation Park is one of three Uptown parks that will be closed due to high levels of lead in the soil. (Sabree Hill, UptownMessenger.com)

Three Uptown New Orleans playgrounds – Danneel, Annunciation and Taylor – are closing immediately after unacceptably high levels of lead were found in the soil there, city officials said.

More than 400 mg/kg of lead in the soil is considered a hazard by state and federal health agencies, a level exceeded at several Uptown playgrounds. Inspectors found the following amounts, according to the full report:

Three parks (Danneel, Annunciation and Taylor, all red markers) will close immediately for lead remediation. Two others (Van McMurry in purple and Burke in yellow) will be remediated later in the spring. One, A.L. Davis (the blue marker), had no lead.

  • Danneel Playspot (5501 St. Charles Ave.): up to 890 mg/kg in bare soil in child play areas. High-priority remediation recommended at an estimated $30,000.
  • Taylor Playground (2600 S. Roman St.): up to 1,100 mg/kg on the west side of the playing field, and up to 700 to 900 mg/kg in other areas of the park. High-priority remediation recommended at an estimated $16,000.
  • Annunciation Playground (800 Race St.): up to 650 mg/kg on the north side of the play area. High-priority remediation recommended at an estimated $7,500.
  • Van McMurray Playground (2000 Philip St.): up to 900 mg/kg on the south side of the football field. Medium-priority remediation recommended at an estimated $6,000.
  • Burke Playground (2524 Annunciation St.): up to 440 mg/kg in the soil near the oak trees along Chippewa. Low-priority remediation recommended at an estimated $500.
  • A.L. Davis Playground (2600 LaSalle St.): no lead found.

The full text of the city’s news release is below:

Today, the City announced the results of an initial investigation of lead on painted surfaces and in surface soil at 13 playgrounds throughout the City. Tests were conducted by Dr. Paul Lo, a certified Lead Inspector and Lead Risk Assessor, of Materials Management Group, Inc., contracted by the City’s Department of Health and the Office of Coastal and Environmental Affairs.

The purpose of the investigation was to determine the presence of lead on painted surfaces as well as lead concentration in surface soil at the playgrounds. The sites selected were those that were located in what the City has determined “hot spots” for lead, based on previous studies led by Dr. Howard Mielke, Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research. The City selected parks and playgrounds in the oldest sections of the City which are areas of concern for potential lead contamination, due to sand-blasting of lead-based paint on older homes, and the residuals of the years when lead was prevalent in gasoline, paint and other materials.

“For this first round of testing, we targeted parks in historically high lead areas where young children play and where summer activities will be offered,” said Dr. Karen DeSalvo, City Health Commissioner. The playgrounds tested were deemed a priority by the City Administration, as these will be sites where programming will be offered under the direction of the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission.

“Lead-based paint and the former use of leaded gasoline are the two things that most affect the lead concentration in soil, so we have a particular challenge in New Orleans because we are an older city,” said Charles Allen, Director of Coastal and Environmental Affairs.

The scope of services for the investigation included the following:

  • Conduct a lead-based paint investigation on painted surfaces with an X-Ray Flourescence Spectrometer (XRF);
  • Conduct soil sampling of bare soil areas based on a grid sampling design by LDEQ certified Lead Inspectors or Lead Risk Assessors;
  • Collect and analyze surface soil samples in accordance with government published protocols and/or standard procedures;
  • Determine the area to be mitigated based on the current USEPA and LDEQ soil standards.

According to the current US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), the acceptable soil standard for residential use is 400 mg/kg. Further, the most pressing public health threat is continued ingestion of lead contaminated soil by young children.

Overall, results show no lead mitigation is required at A.L. Davis or Norwood Thompson playgrounds. Those deemed as high priority for remediation efforts include Danneel, Taylor and Annunciation playgrounds. Danneel Playspot and the playspot areas at Taylor Park and Annunciation Park will be closed for remediation for up to 6 weeks. The areas will be fenced off in the coming days. Described as medium priority for mitigation were Easton, Van McMurray and Hunter’s Field playgrounds. Deemed low priority were Burke, Lemann II, Stallings Center, Comiskey and Treme Center playgrounds. All of these parks will be remediated in time for any planned summer recreational programming. The City will also address lead-based paint where it exists on light posts, buildings, and trash cans.

Additionally, free lead testing is provided to children enrolled in Medicaid at the City’s three primary care clinics in Algiers (1111 Newton Street), Central City (2222 Simon Bolivar Ave.), and New Orleans East (5640 Read Blvd.). Any pediatrician or health center can test for elevated blood levels. The City does home inspections and case management for children who test above the 15 micrograms per deciliter threshold for blood lead levels. For more information on that program, residents should contact the City’s Health Department at 658-2500.

“Lead poisoning is preventable and an important public health issue,” said Dr. DeSalvo. “Those most at risk are between 6 months and 6 years old. We are committed to doing our part to reduce the public health risk for our city’s children but parents must also do their part by getting their kids tested and reducing exposure through frequent hand washing and avoiding excessive contact with or ingestion of bare soil.”

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control Website: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/tips.htm.

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