Centennial Park playground closed due to “extremely high” lead levels

A worker from Lambton Fencing puts the finishing touches on the new fence surrounding the Centennial Park playground. Officials have blocked it off after extremely high levels of lead were found nearby.

A worker from Lambton Fencing puts the finishing touches on the new fence surrounding the Centennial Park playground. Officials have blocked it off after extremely high levels of lead were found nearby.

A popular waterfront park in Sarnia is being fenced off after “extremely high levels of lead” were found nearby.

Sarnia City Manager Lloyd Fennell says contractors have fenced off a large area in Centennial Park, including the playground equipment after Golder and Associates made the discovery yesterday.

The environmental consulting firm has been testing soil samples in the park since last summer after a mysterious black tar-like substance came to the surface in the bowl area of the park normally used for events such as Bayfest. It was graveled over and then fenced and the park was used over the summer. City council approved an aggressive sampling program of the park to determine if there were any other problems in the area which before the 1960s was an industrial area.

The consultants began testing the playground area yesterday and found the extremely high lead levels in a grassy area behind the play equipment.

Fennell decided to take action immediately. “What we were told in a conversation yesterday is that the lead levels far exceeded the allowable limit,” he says. “Give that it is near the playground and I know that lead has issues with children we decided it would be fenced off.”

Long-term exposure to lead can lead problems communicating, trouble paying attention and poor fine motor skills in children according to the US Center of Disease Control.

Sarnia officials are fencing off the playground area in Centennial Park. The area where the yellow and red circles intersect has been found to have extremely high levels of lead.

Sarnia officials are fencing off the playground area in Centennial Park. The area where the yellow and red circles intersect has been found to have extremely high levels of lead.

“Because of that proximity I don’t want to take any chances,” Fennell added. “We want the message out. We certainly would appreciate the cooperation of parents and children to understand that this is preventative and for their own well being.”

While the consultants haven’t been able to determine exactly where the lead came from, Fennell says he believes it is likely from past industry or fill brought to the site to create the park in the 1960s.

“This is an opportunity for us to get it right,” says Fennell. “I can’t speak to what information people may have had in the past, we’ve been given this information were trying to deal with it as open and transparently as possible… people need to know and that’s what we’re trying to ensure.”

Fennell says the area will be fenced off until the consultant completes the testing and provides a plan of action for the city to act on. He’s expecting that in mid-May.

– Heather Wright

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