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School ball field safe for kids despite coal ash


BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- State regulators say it is safe to use the athletic field at a Brunswick County school, even though coal ash was spread to elevate it more than 20 years ago.

Brunswick County School leaders say they are working with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) to deal with coal ash spread during the construction of the fields at South Brunswick Middle School.

According to Cathy Akroyd, public information officer for the NCDENR Division of Waste Management, the use of the recently renovated baseball field has been given the green light for students.

"As far as the material that is left on the field, test have shown that, at the surface soil level, there is no cause for alarm," Akroyd wrote in an e-mail, according to a news release from Brunswick County Schools. "That soil has been tested and poses no danger to anyone interacting with the surface soil."

School leaders found out about the coal ash during the recent renovation of the schoo's baseball field. The district says the coal ash was generated by the Cogentrix Corporation that formerly operated in Southport. The school district says it looks like 12 to 24 inches of the ash was used during the 1990s to elevate the fields.

According to Akroyd the stockpile mixture of soil and ash that remains at the school from the field renovation process must be disposed of at an appropriate landfill. The plan for disposal will be approved by NCDENR.

In her e-mail, the district says, Akroyd also acknowledged that there have been no detections of ground water contamination. Brunswick County Schools submitted a work plan and additional reporting from environmental engineering firm ECS to NCDENR Friday. The district is waiting for DENR's review and response.

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Radiation in Coal Ash


I would ask if Ms. Ackroyd could share DENR's findings for levels of gamma radiation emissions from the surface of the coal-ash amended athletic fields. It is well known that coal ash emits at least 5 isotope forms of high-energy gamma particles from uranium, radium, and thorium. Numerous USEPA websites, as well as numerous scientific research studies of coal ash (including recent investigations by Duke University following the December 2008 coal ash spill in Kingston, TN)verify and describe the public health hazard of radiation in coal ash, yet radiation is almost never measured in safety evaluations such as that reported by DENR and Ms. Ackroyd in relation to the short- and long-term safety of children who spend large amounts of time playing on these, what are essentially, coal-ash waste disposal sites. If Ms. Ackroyd and DENR cannot verify the radiation safety of these sites, then they are not safe, despite the alledged "acceptable" levels of what I assume are the traditionally measured heavy metals and trace elements that are typically monitored (e.g., mercury, arsenic, selenium, lead, zinc, nickel, cadmium, etc.). A blanket "safety" endorsement by DENR must include radiation safety.

I would be glad to provide internet links, USEPA documents, and pdf's of scientific publications in support of my concerns if they would be helpful.

A. Dennis Lemly, Ph.D.
Wake Forest University

Coal Ash

Coal ash is essentially inert and should pose no environmental concerns in my opinion.