Conway Field and Playground
Soil testing conducted in preparation for the proposed renovation of Conway field has revealed contamination in the soil requiring its closure. Samples taken at various locations and depths identified contamination including lead and PCBs, some of which exceeded regulatory limits. In accordance with State and federal guidelines and at the recommendation of our consultant, additional testing will be conducted. Once further testing results are available, we will work with our consultants as well as the MA Department of Environmental Protection and EPA to determine what remediation is required, and the field will remain closed until that remediation is complete. Additional updates will be provided as more information becomes available.
Updates and Alerts
Documents & Results
Meeting Videos & Presentations
Updates and Alerts
Conway Park & Playground Update 1/10/2019
Dear community members,
We have a range of items to update you on this month.
First, the full report on the recent rounds of testing at Conway, officially called the Environmental Site Assessment Data Transmittal and Letter Report, is now complete and posted to the website. It's more than 4,000 pages, but Part 1 is a seven-page communication from Weston & Sampson that gives clear information about testing, timing of testing, and test results. This summary should be helpful in explaining both the technical and environmental status of the project. If you prefer video, watching the recording of the recent public meeting, which is also on the Conway webpage, is another option. The presentation given that night, provides a clear summary of much of what is in the report. To view the report and the video, please navigate to the appropriate tab above.
In other news, we continue to make every effort to move the process forward swiftly and responsibly. In December the Administration requested funds for the next phase of work by Weston & Sampson (W&S), and the Board of Aldermen approved the funding. Next steps cover a number of tasks including geophysical surveying, evaluation of remediation options, development of a cleanup plan, and conceptual design work for the field that will both inform and be informed by the remediation options. It also includes a public meeting to present the cleanup plan and further public outreach and support. In other words, W&S will help us keep you involved and in the loop. We’ll keep you posted on their progress on all fronts, including letting you know that geophysical surveying began this week.
Geophysical Surveying Underway:
Weston & Sampson subcontractor Hager Richter Geoscience was at the site today using three instruments to search for any possible source of underground contamination:
- EM: Electromagnetic Induction – A higher-resolution magnetic resolution tool good to approximately 10 feet. GPR: Ground Penetrating Radar - Used to determine shapes of anything that is buried.
- MAG: Low-level magnetic resolution tool good for deeper searches.
- GPR: Ground Penetrating Radar - Used to determine shapes of anything that is buried.
Weston & Sampson hopes to have the results of this work in approximately 2 weeks, and will then analyze them and prepare a report. We will share the report once it is complete.
Government Shutdown Affecting EPA: Meanwhile, most functions at the EPA have been suspended due to the federal government shutdown. Most staff, including the PCB Coordinator for EPA Region 1, who is responsible for our site, are not allowed to conduct any work while furloughed. While the impact on our timeline remains unclear, there is concern that the backlog that will be waiting when staff return to work will create some delay. We will keep you posted on this as well.
As always, please feel free to share this information, send additional questions, and let others know they can sign up for these alerts.
As always, we are happy to answer your additional questions. Please feel free to contact Director of Parks and Open Space Arn Franzen at 617-625-6600 x2545 or [email protected].
Conway Park & Playground Interim Update 12/11/2018
This interim update is just a brief note to let you know that for those who missed the Public Info Session, the video and presentation are now posted online below.
At the December 5 information session, Weston & Sampson provided a comprehensive overview including:
- Site history
- Assessment process
- Regulatory overview
- Findings and draft data presentation
- Next steps
We will be working to update the FAQs posted on the website over the coming week as well to distill information provided at the meeting. Please see the above video of the presentation, and click here to view a copy of the presentation slides.
And, as always, please feel free to share this information, send additional questions, and let others know they can sign up for these alerts.
Conway Park & Playground Update 10/30/18
EPA and DEP Have Approved the Reopening of the Northwest Portion of the Playground; Preparatory Work for Opening Has Commenced
On Thursday, October 25, the City of Somerville received word from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that both DEP and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have approved the reopening of the northwest portion of Conway Playground, which is the portion of the playground closer to the rink where the play equipment is located. Based on a review of the environmental testing results, both the EPA and DEP have approved the City’s request to reopen this portion of the playground to the public. The northeast portion of the playground, closer to Rite-Aid where the concrete pad area is located, will remain closed at this time.
Activities are already underway to prepare for the reopening. Under the guidance of our Licensed Site Professional, Weston & Sampson, EPA, and DEP, the City of Somerville’s Department of Public Works (DPW) immediately began to take appropriate actions to prepare the site. DPW is arranging for the reconfiguration of the fencing to ensure access is limited only to the portion of the playground that has been approved for public use by DEP and EPA. DPW will also conduct general maintenance including topping off the mulch, tree maintenance, and other tasks before reopening.
Weather-permitting, this work is expected to take approximately one week from today (Oct. 30) to complete, at which time this portion of the playground will reopen for public use. It is, however, important to note that this portion of the playground will have to be fenced and closed again when any remedial work is conducted on the ballpark portion of the site. We will provide ample advance notification of when that work will occur when that phase of this process is reached.
The City and Weston & Sampson continue to work diligently under the guidance of EPA and DEP to advance all work needed to remediate and renovate the portions of Conway park that remain closed to public access. As additional milestones and information are available, we will share those with you.
Contact: If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact Director of Parks and Open Space Arn Franzen at 617-625-6600 x2545 or [email protected].
Conway Park & Playground Interim Update 10/12/18
EPA and DEP Guidance on the Playground Expected Soon
To ensure public safety, we continue to work with the support of our Licensed Site Professional, Weston & Sampson, to follow both Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) processes for Conway. As planned, Weston & Sampson is currently coordinating with the EPA, the DEP, and the City on the next steps to reopen the playground. Weston & Sampson is working with EPA and DEP to address both the technical and regulatory requirements, and we hope to have news on the playground in the very near future.
As with any process involving Federal and State regulatory agencies, each step must follow all appropriate requirements and procedures, which can take considerable time. Weston & Sampson is thus continuing to prioritize this work for us to avoid any unnecessary delay, and likewise, the Administration, City staff, and the Board of Aldermen remain committed to advancing this process swiftly while maintaining public health and safety as our first priority.
As noted in the last update, our goal is to focus on the playground first to determine if the playground can be opened sooner rather than later. Again, we are hopeful that we will have news on this very soon. Weston & Sampson is also continuing to make every effort to complete all required steps in preparation for the field’s planned redesign and renovation.
We do fully understand the desire of community members see this move forward quickly and to remain informed of progress. This interim update is intended to keep residents informed as we await word on the playground. Once EPA and DEP have completed their review and provided us with guidance on the playground, we will provide another update to the community. Likewise, as we reach other milestones, we will share those with you.
Conway Park & Playground Update 7/20/18
Pre-testing work near completion; next round of testing starts next week
Our Licensed Site Professional, Weston & Sampson, continues to expedite their work on Conway Park for us, and if you’ve been by the site this week you may have seen them. They are currently busy conducting pre-testing fieldwork on the full site, which they expect to complete this week. This will allow them to start the next round of sample gathering next week, which they expect to take approximately 10 to 15 business days (please note that weather and site conditions, such as if they encounter boulders when drilling for samples, can affect this schedule).
Next, the test results will be sent for analysis. Once the new test results are back and fully analyzed (this typically takes less than a month), Weston & Sampson will coordinate with EPA and the City on next steps, including determining reopening requirements for the playground and drafting any required Risk-Based Cleanup Plans that will require EPA’s approval.
Our goal is to focus on the playground first to determine if the playground can be opened sooner rather than later. We are hopeful that the playground will be on a quicker timeline than the field, and test results and EPA guidance will ultimately determine this. We are also making every effort to complete all required steps for field testing and remediation in a timely manner in preparation for the field’s planned redesign and renovation.
Again, any cleanup and opening plans will be dependent on EPA review and approval, and the time required to receive that review and approval is set by the agency’s protocols and requirements. For this reason, we cannot reasonably estimate how long each step of review and approval will take. What we do know is that EPA is fully aware of the desire of the City and community to move forward responsibly and without any unnecessary delay. In the meantime, we will keep the community informed of our progress.
Looking ahead, these are our currently expected next steps (again this is subject to change due to weather, site conditions, or other factors):
Playground Area Next Steps
- This week (July 16-20): Complete pre-testing field work.
- Next 2-3 weeks: Gather additional samples in the playground area and send for analysis.
- In the near-term: Mow grass and top off mulch.
- After sample analysis is complete: Depending on the results of the field activities, Weston & Sampson will confer with regulators regarding:
- If the full playground can be re-opened without additional work,
- If an interim measure is required, such as a partial opening of the playground or the replacement of some fill, or
- If the playground must remain closed pending further remediation.
Ballfield Area Next Steps
- This week (July 16-20) - Complete pre-testing field work.
- Next 2 to 3 weeks – Gather additional samples in the infield areas, outfield areas, and entrance/concession areas outside of the fence and send samples for analysis.
- In the near-term: Mow grass.
- After sample analysis is complete: Weston & Sampson will review the data and develop any needed Risk-Based Cleanup Plan for review by EPA. Cleanup strategies will be discussed with the City and will dovetail with plans to redesign and renovate the field.
- Ongoing: Take preparatory steps for the Conway field community planning process.
Conway Park & Playground Update 6/19/18
EPA and MassDEP visit site; progress on testing protocols continues
EPA and MassDEP are active on this project and working to assist us as we continue with our assessment, and we took several important steps forward last week.
Each agency sent a representative to the site last week for a joint walk-about to inform their requirements for further testing. The visit was important progress. With EPA and MassDEP guidance, our Licensed Site Professional, Weston & Sampson, is finalizing a plan for the next phase of required testing. To accelerate the process, the City submitted an appropriation request to the Board of Aldermen on Thursday, June 14, to fund the next round of testing, and it was swiftly passed by the Board at the same session. With funding in place, this means that as soon as the EPA approves the testing plan, Weston & Sampson will be able to begin their assessment immediately.
After the testing, our hope is to have sufficient data to support reopening the playground as quickly as possible. In addition, the goal for the athletic field is to collect sufficient data to develop an approved cleanup plan that can be integrated into its planned renovation.
Playground Area Next Steps
- Once given EPA approval, Weston & Sampson will conduct additional assessment in the playground area.
- Depending on the results of additional testing, Weston & Sampson will confer with regulators regarding next steps for either full or partial reopening of the playground.
- To work toward the earliest possible reopening of the playground, Weston & Sampson has agreed to make every effort to expedite the additional testing.
- The Parks and Recreation (P&R) Department continues to work with area daycare/youth providers to identify alternative play areas. If you have questions regarding park or playground alternatives, please contact P&R Director Jill Lathan at [email protected] or 617-625-6600 x2983.
- Playground reopening: We understand that members of the community are anxious to see the playground reopen. We are too. It is important however to understand the EPA’s role. EPA must adhere to strict protocols that shape their timelines, but we are confident that the agency will strive to prevent any avoidable delay. Because EPA is in control of the pace of their regulatory review, and the results of additional testing could impact the timeline, we will not have a defined time frame for the completion of this process until we receive further guidance. But we will keep the community updated on our progress, and we are making every effort to complete steps in our control as swiftly as possible.
Athletic Field Area Next Steps
- Once given EPA approval, Weston & Sampson will conduct additional assessment of the infield and outfield areas, as well as of the entrance/concession areas outside of the fence.
- Weston & Sampson will review the data and develop a cleanup plan for review by EPA.
- The Parks and Recreation (P&R) Department continues to work with our youth athletic field users to minimize displacement. If you have questions regarding park or playground alternatives, please contact P&R Director Jill Lathan at [email protected] or 617-625-6600 x2983.
- Park redesign: As part of the City's Fields Master Plan, Conway field is slated for a needed redesign and upgrade. It is the City’s intent to begin the design process soon so that renovations can begin in a timely manner after remediation is complete. To that end, a request for design funds will be made shortly to the Board of Aldermen. If approved, we will next select a landscape architecture firm for the project. Once we have a team on board, the community process will follow. We understand that community members are eager to start the field redesign process. We share that goal and will keep you posted on our progress.
As always, we are happy to answer your additional questions. Please feel free to contact Director of Parks and Open Space Arn Franzen at 617-625-6600 x2545 or [email protected].
When will the field reopen?
Once further testing results are available, we will work with our consultants as well as the MA Department of Environmental Protection and EPA to determine what remediation is required, and the field will remain closed until that remediation is complete.
What are the field alternatives?
The Parks and Recreation Department is working to identify alternative field space for impacted users.
When will the playground reopen?
The playground will remain closed until additional testing is complete and any guidance on next steps is followed. We’ll update this page accordingly.
What are other nearby playgrounds I can visit?
When will testing be complete?
In accordance with State and federal guidelines and at the recommendation of our consultant, additional testing will be conducted. Once we receive DEP and EPA guidance, tests will be scheduled and completed. This site will be updated accordingly.
What did you find and is there a health risk?
The following responses were provided by Marie Rudiman, Senior Risk Assessor/Toxicologist, EnviroRisk Solutions, LLC, after a review of the test results:
What did you find and what are the levels of concern?
Children and adults are most likely to be exposed to surface soil and not soil that is at depth.
The concentrations of lead that were detected in surface soil (0 to 3 feet) are relatively low; they are less than what is typically observed in urban background soil. Those concentrations do not cause a significant risk and are not considered a health concern. There were some elevated concentrations of lead at depths greater than 3 feet and we will take measures to ensure that elevated concentrations of lead at depth do not become accessible to the public during park redevelopment.
The concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in surface soil triggered further evaluation. The soil data for the park was divided into two areas: the playground and the ballfield. Potential health risks were evaluated by selecting a “hypothetical” human receptor, a park visitor that may be exposed to soil in the park under enhanced conditions. All of the assumptions used are MassDEP default exposure assumptions for a park visitor. These assumptions include:
-A child that may be exposed to soil at the park from age 1 through age 6 years
-Exposure is through dermal contact and incidental ingestion
-Exposure to soil is for 24 hours per day, 3 days per week, 30 weeks per year for 5 years (2,160 hours per year)
-Ingestion was assumed to be 100 mg/kg soil on each day of exposure
-Parts of the body that were assumed to have soil adherence included face, forearms, lower legs, and feet
-Enhanced soil adherence to the skin, similar to mud
Using both the average and maximum concentrations of PCBs in 0 to 1 foot soil, there was No Significant Risk associated with park visitor exposure to soil and therefore, there is No Imminent Hazard associated with exposure to soil in the playground area, as defined by MassDEP. There is not a health concern with exposure to PCBs in soil of the playground.
Using the average and the 90th percentile concentrations of PCBs in the ballfield areas, there was No Significant Risk associated with park visitor exposure to soil and therefore, there is No Imminent Hazard associated with exposure to soil in the ballfield areas, as defined by MassDEP. Based on this analysis, there is not a health concern with exposure to PCBs in soil in the park. It is expected that most children will not be present at the park for the amount of time assumed in this evaluation. With less exposure, there is even less of a potential for a health risk.
Could my child have elevated lead because of this field/playground? (My child has had high lead levels in the past, could this park have caused them?)
No. It is unlikely that the concentrations of lead in the park contributed to your child’s blood lead level. The concentrations of lead that were detected in surface soil 0 to 3 feet below grade were, relatively low. They were less than what is typically observed in urban background and less than the concentrations of lead that trigger a health concern.
At these levels, what are the health hazards my kids could have been exposed to?
It is not expected that children who use the park will have a health concern from the concentrations of lead and PCBs observed in surface soil.
How does one become sick from lead?
Lead is a very common in background soil, especially in urban areas, because it was used as a gasoline additive, in paint and ceramics, as soldering for pipes, etc. Although its use in consumer products has been outlawed, because it is a metal and does not break down in the environment, lead is commonly found along roadways and in the soil around older homes as well as in window wells, paint, and caulking of older homes. It is sometimes found in drinking water of homes that have older plumbing with lead soldering.
The primary exposure to lead is through ingestion of contaminated food or drinking water. Children that practice pica (hand to mouth ingestion of soil) may also be exposed to lead in soil or paint chips containing lead. In Massachusetts, children are required to have their blood tested for lead prior to entering kindergarten. Because lead is present in the background, the background blood lead level for children is 1.9 µg/dL and for adults is 1.5 µg/dL. A child blood lead level above 5 µg/L is considered potentially toxic.
Low blood lead levels (typically 5 to 10 ug/L) in children may cause cognitive and neurobehavioral effects. Further discussion of the health effects of lead can be found at: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxguides/toxguide-13.pdf.
It should be noted that the concentrations of lead observed in surface soil at the park are less than urban background concentrations and do not cause a health concern.
How does one become sick from PCB’s? What is the exposure route?
Small amounts of PCBs can be found in almost all outdoor and indoor air, soil, sediments, surface water, and animals. However, PCB levels have generally decreased since PCB production stopped in 1977. People are exposed to PCBs primarily from contaminated food (especially fish) and breathing contaminated air. (Note: Based on the low concentrations and nature of the PCBs detected at the park, it is unlikely that park visitors will be exposed to PCBs in ambient air at the park). As with lead, there are background concentrations of PCBs in the body.
PCBs have a range of health effects. Further reading about the potential health effects of PCBs is here: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=139&tid=26.
It should be noted that the concentrations of PCBs observed in surface soil at the park do not cause a significant risk and No Imminent Hazard was found at the park.
Should I be worried?
No. Based on the Imminent Hazard evaluation that was performed for the concentrations of PCBs in surface soil, there is not a significant health risk associated with enhanced exposure to soil at the park. The lead concentrations in surface soil are relatively low and are below typical urban background concentrations.
We will continue to evaluate soil at the park and any redevelopment of the park will be done to ensure that the higher concentrations of lead and PCBs that were observed at depth do not become accessible to the public.
Is this more dangerous than playing on artificial turf?
Artificial turf and the crumb rubber should meet ASTM guidelines and therefore, would have lower concentrations of lead and no detections of PCBs. However, there is no significant risk associated with use of the park and No Imminent Hazard was found at the park.
How common are these in the urban environment?
Lead is a very common in background soil, especially in urban areas, because it was used as a gasoline additive, in paint and ceramics, as soldering for pipes, etc. Although its use in consumer products has been outlawed in the 1970s and 1980s, because it is a metal and does not break down in the environment, lead is commonly found along roadways and in the soil around older homes as well as in window wells, paint, and caulking of older homes. It is sometimes found in drinking water of homes that have older plumbing with lead soldering.
What are “background” levels?
In Massachusetts, the 90th percentile background concentration of lead in natural soil is 100 mg/kg; the 90th percentile background concentration of lead in urban soil is 600 mg/kg.
PCBs are also ubiquitous in the environment. The USEPA considers PCB’s at concentrations between 0.1 and 1.0 mg/kg to be background in soil.
Could children have been exposed for years?
Yes, the children could have been exposed to low concentrations of PCBs for years since it is in the surface soil, however, the Imminent Hazard Evaluation that assumes an enhanced exposure for 5 years concluded that there is no significant risk associated with exposure to PCBs. There is no Imminent Hazard, as defined by MassDEP.
Are the abutters at risk?
Risk has to do with exposure. The purpose of using enhanced exposure assumptions in the risk evaluation was to be protective of potential exposures. As long as abutters are at the park for less time than was assumed (2,160 hours per year), it is unlikely that abutters would have a health effect with exposure to the park.
Where can I find more information?
- Information Session: Scroll up to watch a video recording of the information session held Thursday, March 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the Public Safety Building.
- Conway updates email list: If you would like to be notified by email of any future updates, please sign up via this link.
- Your questions: If you have additional questions, please direct them to Arn Franzen (at [email protected]).
Where can I find more information on lead and PCBs?
Here are two helpful, official government information sites:
- Lead in Soil: https://www.mass.gov/lists/massdep-lead-information
- PCBs: https://www.epa.gov/pcbs/learn-about-polychlorinated-biphenyls-pcbs
Documents & Results
- Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) Report from Weston & Sampson (Published 1/8/2019)
- Northwest Playground Area Results Memo: Environmental Summary and Risk Characterization (Memo from Weston & Sampson to EPA and DEP on Third Round Testing Results for the Northwest Portion of Playground)
- Supplemental Field Investigation (Memo from Weston & Sampson Re: Second Round of Testing)
- Conway Park Plans and Tables (Results from Second Round of Testing)
- Environmental Subsurface Investigation Summary Letter (Results from First Round of Testing)
Meeting Videos & Presentations
“We do not want to be a state with pockets of excellence. We want excellence to be the norm.”
Fourth Quarterly Public Meeting to Discuss Updates to Parking Changes on Central Hill Campus Scheduled for Wednesday, December 12
Join City staff on Wednesday, December 12, at 6 p.m. at the Central Library, 79 Highland Ave. for the fourth in a series of public quarterly meetings where updates about parking changes, new data collection, and strategies for impact mitigation will be discussed.
Mayor Joseph Curtatone, Superintendent of Schools Mary Skipper, and Director of Parks & Recreation Jill Lathan announced this month that, following approval by the Somerville School Committee of a draft Memorandum of Understanding, the Somerville Parks and Recreation Department will take over
The City of Somerville is developing a campus plan for Central Hill, home to City Hall, Somerville High School, the Central Library, and Central Playground. Please join us on Thursday, November 1, at 6 p.m. for a meeting in the High School cafeteria to help shape the plan.