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    Playground ruled safe for children

    Arsenic levels pose little risk, a consultant finds, and the Sunshine Playground will reopen soon.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2001

    CLEARWATER -- The Long Center will reopen the Sunshine Playground because a city consultant has dismissed the levels of arsenic found leaching from the playground's treated wood as posing "no imminent threats to public health."

    "It looks like we can reopen Monday," said Mark Abdo, the Long Center's executive director.

    The Sunshine Playground was closed to children on April 3, after tests of the sand around the playground showed arsenic levels of up to about seven times the state's recommended standard for residential areas.

    The tests were prompted by public concern about arsenic levels found at other area playgrounds that had been built with wood treated with a chemical compound that includes arsenic.

    The city hired HSA Engineers & Scientists of Tampa to review the sand test results last week and assess the risks involved based on a complicated toxicology formula. HSA sent the city a letter dated Thursday saying that the large, castlelike playground is safe for kids because the levels of arsenic are too small to pose much risk.

    "No additional remedial actions are scientifically necessary," HSA reported.

    Still, the company suggested that the potential for skin contact and possible ingestion of arsenic could be minimized with a limited excavation of sand around the playground or by covering the areas around the treated wood.

    Abdo, who was off Friday, said he had not yet reviewed the report and could not discuss in detail its recommendations.

    Kevin Dunbar, the city's parks and recreation director, said the city hired HSA to get an expert opinion on the playground's safety and that he was comfortable with the report.

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