In order to treat unsafe levels of lead and other toxic heavy metals, three feet of soil must be removed and replaced in areas of the Booker T. Washington High School site at 1201 South Roman Street that will not be covered by asphalt or buildings, according to state recommendations reported on by Mark Schleifstein of The Times-Picayune. Monique Harden, an attorney for the Walter L. Cohen Alumni Association, is asking the state to treat the entire site as a hazardous-waste site, Schleifstein reports.
The students of the Crocker Arts and Technology charter school had one of the most harrowing journeys through the post-Katrina education landscape of any school in New Orleans, bouncing around four campuses in the city over five years before the school finally lost its charter this year among stagnant test scores. Now, finally settled into their long-promised new building on Marengo Street with a new operator preparing for next year, Crocker parents are now faced with yet another worry — enough peeling lead paint has been discovered in the campus where Crocker kids spent the longest part of their odyssey to warrant an emergency remediation before the building can be used again. But with lead poisoning known to affect intelligence levels, the broader question of how many other students are at risk around the city remains unanswered. Crocker opened on Pratt Drive in Gentilly in August of 2008 and moved the following year to the New Orleans Free School campus on Camp Street. In December 2009, the Recovery School District issued an emergency notice removing children from the school because the foundation had discovered to have deteriorated to a “spongy mass,” and children were yanked out almost over night, their artwork still hanging on the walls years later (the building has since been sold and is slated for redevelopment into apartments).
Audubon Charter School has indefinitely postponed the renovations of its Broadway Street campus after its plan to use a lead-saturated site in the Lower Garden District for a temporary campus was deemed “unacceptable” by state officials, the school announced late Wednesday. According to an announcement emailed from Orleans Parish School Board at 4:40 p.m. Wednesday:
After failed attempts to arrive at an acceptable mitigation plan with the LA Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), the Orleans Parish School Board announced today that it will postpone its Audubon Charter renovation project until further notice. Audubon Charter was scheduled for a two-year comprehensive renovation at its Broadway school in accordance with the School Facilities Master Plan. In order to accommodate the school, the School Board had arranged for a replacement site, known as a swing site, in the Lower Garden District on the block bounded by Richard, Constance, Orange and Annunciation Streets. The Annunciation site was selected after an exhaustive search for space in the Uptown area.
Lead levels in the soil at the proposed temporary site of Audubon Charter School are the highest one scientist has ever seen in New Orleans, but he assured a cafeteria packed with concerned, angry and sometimes unconvinced parents Thursday night that the remediation techniques he suggests will make the campus safe. “This is the highest lead I’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Paul Lo, a certified lead inspector and lead risk assessor with Materials Management Group Inc., who has headed recent remediation efforts at playgrounds around the city. “But your children are not going to play on the existing conditions, and that’s a fact.” The Broadway campus of Audubon Charter School is about to embark on a two-year renovation project, but officials were unable this spring to locate a suitable temporary building for the students who will be displaced. What they found instead was a vacant lot at the corner of Annunciation and Orange in the Lower Garden District where they plan to create a campus of modular buildings, but soil tests of the playground area there have revealed lead contamination in the soil that exceeds federal limits by 10 times or more.
The site proposed for Audubon’s temporary campus has lead contamination in the soil of the playground area exceeding federal standards by 10 times or more, prompting some parents to insist the entire site have the lead removed before their children arrive next fall. Audubon’s Broadway Street campus is slated for a renovation project that will require a temporary campus for students for two years and, unable to find an existing building that would serve the purpose, officials are considering building modular buildings on a vacant lot in the Lower Garden District. The site previously held several houses, and OPSB consultants told parents in late March that their demolition probably left the soil contaminated, prompting the need for lead testing that was already underway. In a March 31 report included in a May 9 update on the project on the Orleans Parish School Board website, investigators said they found lead levels in the soil ranging from 660 to 7,700 parts per million in every tract of the playground area they tested, well in excess of the 440-ppm federal standard for play areas or even the 1200-ppm standard for non-play areas. The investigators’ initial recommendation was for either short-term remediation in the playground through planting fresh sod atop the contaminated soil, or for more permanent solutions such as soil replacement or a concrete covering.
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:
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.