Concern about wood leaking arsenic leads Treasure Island to consider using recycled plastic
By KATHY SAUNDERS
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 2, 2002
TREASURE ISLAND -- After finding arsenic and chromium deposits in the soil of three city playgrounds -- many times more than the state allows when polluters clean up neighborhoods -- commissioners will be asked tonight to replace all of the wooden equipment at their parks.
"We're taking the initiative," said City Manager Chuck Coward, who is recommending that commissioners spend $20,000 to replace the pressure-treated wood at playgrounds on the Isle of Palms, Roselli Park on the Isle of Capri and at the city's recreation center on Paradise Island.
The workshop is at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 120 108th Ave. Commissioners will take a formal vote at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. The money would come from the city's Penny for Pinellas fund.
Public Works director Don Hambidge tested the playground equipment after concerns were raised locally and nationally about the safety of pressure-treated lumber, the greenish wood that is infused with a pesticide called chromated copper arsenate, or CCA.
In many playgrounds, including those on Treasure Island, the lumber is leaking arsenic into playground soil. Arsenic can cause cancer and other health problems.
State and federal officials are waiting for the Environmental Protection Agency's preliminary findings, due this spring, before placing any standards on the treated wood.
But Coward said the arsenic and chromium in the Treasure Island play areas "were higher than what people anticipate will be the standards. Given what we know, we decided it would be in our best interest to move now, even though there are no regulations yet."
In Florida, the state parks have stopped using arsenic-treated wood on most new projects. St. Petersburg and Clearwater replaced their wood playgrounds with metal and plastic equipment years ago because of concerns about injuries.
Coward and Hambidge are recommending that commissioners replace all the Treasure Island equipment with recycled plastic products and remove the contaminated soil.
One of the reasons the city wants to act now, before any state or federal regulations are put in place, is to dispose of the contaminated materials. If the materials are declared hazardous waste, it would be more difficult and more expensive to get rid of the wood and soil.
For now, Treasure Island can dispose of the materials at the county landfill.