Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ASH Q&A; Students Have Little Access to High-Lead Sites They'd Have to Eat Soil at Darnell-Cookman to Face Any Real Risk, a Health Official Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ASH Q&A; Students Have Little Access to High-Lead Sites They'd Have to Eat Soil at Darnell-Cookman to Face Any Real Risk, a Health Official Says

Article excerpt

Byline: TIA MITCHELL

Parents with children attending Darnell-Cookman Middle School in Jacksonville were notified Tuesday that harmful levels of lead are on campus, found in old incinerator ash dumped on the site. School system and city officials said the ash did not pose immediate danger to faculty or students, but interim measures were being taken to clean the area.

The problem area is a fenced-in parking lot and retention pond where ash was found immediately below the surface. In other areas of campus, samplings have found ash deeper below the ground were it could be disturbed by a construction project scheduled at the school.

How much access did students have to the area of campus where ash is found near the soil surface?

That area, accessible from Davis Street around the corner from the school's main entrance, is fenced in. It was used mainly as an auxiliary parking area for a handful of teachers. And those who entered the lot could only gain access to the school building through back doors. The gate to that lot is now chained closed.

A retention pond where contaminants were found also is fenced off.

What are the potential health risks?

Incinerator ash normally has large amounts of lead, which can be harmful, especially to children ages 6 and younger. Usually, if the contamination is located 2 feet or lower, it is deemed harmless. The concern at Darnell-Cookman is the ash found near the surface.

However, David Jones of the Duval County Health Department said Darnell-Cookman students or teachers would have to literally eat the soil in order to have the level of exposure necessary to pose a real health risk.

Lead exposure can lead to learning disabilities, behavioral problems and, at very high levels, more serious health problems.

When did they know that potentially dangerous ash was found at the school?

The school system was notified in 2005, if not sooner, that soil was being tested at Darnell-Cookman to determine the extent of ash contamination. District spokeswoman Jill Johnson said the multivolume report was flagged where other school sites were mentioned but not at the section about Darnell-Cookman, so it was overlooked. …

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