ATTLEBORO — Low levels of chromium, lead and arsenic have been discovered in the soil at Highland Park, but city officials say it does not pose a health problem.
Arsenic was found in three out of six soil samples taken. Lead is in two out of six and chromium in two.
The samples where taken in a section of Highland where a temporary parking lot will be built for construction crews working nearby on the new high school.
City officials said the levels are below the standard for reporting them to the state, but the city’s consultant confirmed the findings with the state Department of Environmental Protection.
“It’s not an issue,” said agency spokesman Ed Coletta, adding that the city has a plan to handle the soil.
Highland Park is the former Highland Country Club, which was purchased by the city after it went bankrupt.
A report by the consultant hired by the city, Doug Heely of ESM, said lead, arsenic and chromium are often found on golf courses because they used to be in widespread use as pesticides.
“Normally, the detection of these metals would require notification to MassDEP,” the report states. “However, these metals are related to arsenic-based pesticides which were commonly used through much of the 20th century.
“The occurrence of these metals (as well as low concentrations of other pesticides) at this golf course property is expected, given that most golf courses use pesticides to control insects and other pests. The use of arsenic-based pesticides at golf courses (and many other places where control of insects was desired) is well documented.”
He said health would only be a concern if there was long-term exposure. The parking lot project is expected to be brief.
The report stated “construction workers do not need to take additional precautions when working with soil within the temporary parking area. However, to further reduce risk and any concerns, it is recommended that water be sprayed on loose soil if dust becomes a concern during windy days, and that work gloves be worn when workers are directly contacting soil.”
Jack Jacobi, vice president of the school building commission, said city officials have been told the substances in the soil are not a health risk.
Mayor Paul Heroux said he asked if the park needed to be shut down when he was first informed of the finding and was told that was unnecessary.
Heroux said the substances were discovered by FS Engineers, who were hired by the high school architects to do testing on soil samples at the high school site and across the street at Highland, where a parking lot is going.
The mayor said he asked for an analysis from Heely.
The consultant provided the city with a soil management plan to handle the situation.
Heely’s report recommends that steps be taken during the storage of the topsoil that will be lifted off the park for the construction of the lot.
The soil should be stored in a pile, watered down on occasion and vegetation should be planted on the pile, Heely wrote.
Current plans call for the parking lot to be removed when the construction of the new high school is completed, but the city may want to keep about half of the 350 parking spaces at Highland for use at the park.
The stored topsoil will be used to replace the parking lot when the pavement is removed after the high school is built.
Jacobi said the temporary parking lot will probably be built in September and October as more construction workers will be at the site daily once a steel frame is erected.