Contaminated soil at Burlingame school to be removed

Cleanup of arsenic-contaminated soil on the Burlingame High School campus will start this week, a Department of Toxic Substances Control spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Equipment to decontaminate the area was moved into place last week, according to spokeswoman Angela Blanchette.

“Air monitoring equipment was installed Monday and the actual excavation and other remediation activities are expected to start this week,” Blanchette said.

According to Blanchette, areas with soil contaminated with lead, arsenic and polychlorinated biphenyls were first found during a modernization of the high school in November 2005. At that point, the department approved a cleanup plan that was put into action in December 2005. Unfortunately, the San Mateo Union High School District lacked funds to complete the cleanup and efforts were halted in January.

After receiving sufficient funding to continue the cleanup work, the PCB-contaminated soil was removed in April, and the lead-contaminated soil was removed in June, according to Blanchette.

Work this week will remove arsenic from soil in the front lawn of the school, the courtyard, the northwest boundary, the shot put area, patches of bare soil adjacent to the track as well as several landscaped spots throughout campus.

The areas that are currently still contaminated have been fenced off so that there are no immediate health risks to students, staff or members of the public, according to the department. Prolonged exposure to the materials can cause adverse health problems, which is why the department required the district to cleanup the contaminated areas.

According to the department, the entire cleanup should cost around $1 million. The school district has estimated that the cleanup will cost around $4 million, but that figure includes costs for re-landscaping the areas with artificial turf.

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