Contaminated soil being cleaned-up at Yakima elementary schools

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Many Yakima schools are built over former orchard land, now the Department of Ecology says the soil is contaminated.

The Yakima Valley is well known for apples, but it's this same industry that's caused soil contamination. The Department of Ecology has found lead and arsenic in the soil across Yakima county and it's from years of farmers battling codling moth. Now, the DOE is working to clean-up the soil at Yakima Elementary Schools.

"The amount that's in the soil is not an immediate health risk, a child would have to eat cupfuls and cupfuls of dirt," said Mary Beth Wright, Yakima School District.

Children are more sensitive to lead and arsenic so the goal is to prevent an accumulation of exposures.

"It's the case of that children when they're young if they're exposed you have a lifetime of accumulation in your body. You might get exposed at a number of places so it's just a smart thing to do," said Joye Redfield-Wilder, Department of Ecology.

Crews remove the bad soil, then put down a fabric cover, add new topsoil and then sod. Last summer Gilbert and Robertson Elementary were decontaminated.

"We've worked with them to where they place sod on the grounds when they're finished so when our kiddos come back at the end of August they have a natural playground to play on," said Wright.

Those projects cost $300,000 and $240,000 and were paid by the Department of Ecology. This summer, Barge-Lincoln, Garfield, Hoover and McKinley Elementary playgrounds will be resurfaced.

To learn more about the clean-up you can go to the Yakima School District Main Office, the downtown library or the Department of Ecology.

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