Soil & Property Testing
Soil and Property Testing Underway in
Walltown, East End, East Durham, Lyon, and Northgate Parks
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November 20, 2023
In August 2023, the Soil Assessment Report from Mid-Atlantic Associates was released and we shared the reported findings with our community.
As a result of the findings, areas where lead was found above the EPA threshold in all five assessed parks were marked with bilingual signage and fenced off to prohibit access while we determined next steps and opportunities for remediation.
At that time, we also shared that the findings had been submitted to North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) for review, as well as our anticipated next steps including:
- Further investigation into the source of the lead.
- Figuring out strategies to remediate and prevent potential future exposure.
- Connecting the community with public health experts and information.
- Continuing to meet with community and subject matter experts.
- Providing extensive updates through multiple communication channels.
After coordinated work between the City, Mid-Atlantic Associates, and NCDEQ, we now have additional updates to share.
We have been informed by NCDEQ that all five parks have qualified for the State’s Pre-Regulatory Landfill Program, which was established to remediate land areas on which municipal solid waste disposal occurred prior to January 1, 1983. This is an opportunity for us to receive additional resources and funding to remediate park spaces that measured above the EPA threshold for lead.
Over the next two months, representatives from the Pre-regulatory Landfill Program will complete additional research and surveying at these five parks which will allow them to prioritize each location amongst the nearly 700 other pre-regulatory landfill sites throughout North Carolina. They will review these five parks for elements, such as:
- Potable drinking wells on-site or within 1,000 feet of contamination.
- Schools and churches on-site or within 1,000 feet of contamination.
Guidelines for NCDEQ’s Addressing Pre-Regulatory Landfills and Dumps can be found here.
Once NCDEQ notifies the City of the prioritization, in-person community conversations will be held to:
- Provide the latest information.
- Discuss the Pre-Regulatory Landfill Program and how NCDEQ can assist.
- Share where each park is ranked in their statewide program.
- Discuss what this means for short- and long-term solutions.
Once the dates, times and locations of these in-person community conversations are scheduled in early 2024, we’ll be sure to share those details on our project webpage, in an email to subscribers, and through our social media channels.
In the meantime, locations in the five parks will continue to be fenced off from the public and bilingual signage will remain in place.
The safety of our park visitors continues to be top priority for us and we remain committed to finding a solution to address this issue in our five parks.
August 17 Update
The final lab analysis report from Mid-Atlantic Associates originally expected by August 15 is delayed, because the company is still receiving lab results. They expect to deliver the report to NCDEQ by August 25.
The delayed delivery of the final report does not change any exposure concerns, since areas known to exceed the 400 ppm EPA threshold have already been blocked from access and marked. We appreciate your patience.
August 11 Update
Laboratory Analysis of Soil Samples in Areas in Four Durham Parks Show Higher Lead Levels than EPA Threshold
One Northgate Park Playground Fenced Off; Grassy Areas of Walltown and East End Parks Fenced Off; Signs Installed for Wooded Area of Lyon Park
This update is in addition to the August 3 memo outlining preliminary results of the soil assessment for lead in five City parks.
As part of our commitment to to the community's safety and to provide ongoing updates about soil testing for lead in five Durham Parks and Recreation parks, we are sharing preliminary laboratory analysis of soil samples based on the initial screening results provided on August 3. Since the below results are higher than the EPA threshold of 400 ppm in areas of these four parks, out of an abundance of caution, we are taking the following actions, until we receive guidance from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), based on the final lab analysis report.
Because one of the three playgrounds was mulched, but unlined, laboratory testing was done on a sample of soil beneath a foot of mulch on that unlined playground. The result of one soil sample was above the EPA threshold of 400 ppm. To prevent access, we have immediately fenced off that playground.
All other soil samples taken in other areas of Northgate Park have measured below the EPA threshold and remain open to the public. The other two playgrounds at Northgate Park have liners beneath the foot-deep mulch that prevent access to the soil beneath the mulch.
While preliminary soil screening results provided on August 3 identified no levels above the EPA threshold of 400 ppm, preliminary laboratory analysis identified one soil sample above the EPA 400 ppm threshold.
This one location is behind the fenced-in baseball field and in a wooded area near the far-eastern boundary of the park. Because this area is difficult to access, a bilingual sign will be posted to alert park patrons not to enter this area.
All other areas of this park and playground, which was lined, continue to be open to the public.
The preliminary soil screening results provided on August 3 identified seven areas above the EPA 400 ppm threshold. Following preliminary laboratory analysis of soil samples, one additional sample has measured above the EPA threshold.
This location is in a wooded area near the creek bank. This area will be fenced off and bilingual signage will be installed alerting people not to enter the area.
All other areas of this park still measure below the EPA threshold and are open to the public.
|East End Park|
While preliminary soil screening results provided on August 3 identified no areas above the EPA threshold outside of the fenced-off Old Sign and Signal Shop, preliminary laboratory analysis has identified one soil sample above the EPA threshold of 400 ppm in the park area.
This one location is in a grassy area between the E.D. Mickle Community Center and bicycle rack. This area will be fenced off and bilingual signage will be installed alerting people not to enter the area.
This park has an unlined playground, in which soil samples beneath the foot-deep mulch tested well below the EPA threshold. The playground and all other areas of the park remain open to the public.
|All Other Playgrounds and Parks|
As of August 11, no other preliminary soil screening results announced on August 3 differ from the preliminary lab analysis results for the other parks and playgrounds included this assessment.
The final lab analysis report is expected by August 15 and will be provided to the NCDEQ at that time. Once NCDEQ reviews the report and provides their guidance on how to proceed, we will move forward with remediation of any park and playground areas measuring above the EPA threshold.
The safety of our residents, employees, and park guests continues to be our top priority. We will keep our community informed on this matter and upcoming public engagement meetings are now posted below under Public Outreach. Updates will also continue to be shared on social media and with our community and neighborhood partners.
August 4 Update - Preliminary Findings
*August 11, 2023: The section below has been updated to reflect corrected terminology. The statements that originally referenced "preliminary soil samples" have been corrected to " soil screening." Please refer to the section above titled Latest Updates for updated content.
Mid-Atlantic's soil collection for Walltown, East End, East Durham, Lyon, and Northgate Parks has been completed.
The scope of their collection and analysis is outlined in Soil Assessment Work Plan below. Samples collected by Mid- Atlantic Associates are now undergoing laboratory analysis to provide precise conclusions. The final report is expected to be completed and delivered to NCDEQ for review by August 15.
While the collected samples are being analyzed, the City received preliminary information from Mid-Atlantic Associates on Thursday, August 3.
- Playground areas – No preliminary soil screenings at playgrounds identified any potential contaminant concerns.
- Lyon Park – No preliminary soil screenings indicate a need for action or remediation. They measured below the 400 ppm threshold.
- Northgate Park – No preliminary soil screenings indicate a need for action or remediation. They measured below the 400 ppm threshold.
- East End Park– No preliminary soil screenings indicate a need for action or remediation. They measured below the 400 ppm threshold.
- A separate fenced off portion of the property not accessible to the public, commonly known as the old Sign & Signal shop identified six (6) soil screenings measuring greater than the EPA threshold 400 ppm.
- East Durham Park – Preliminary sample results identified eight (8) soil screenings measuring greater than the EPA threshold 400 ppm.
- Walltown Park - Preliminary sample results identified seven (7) soil screenings measuring greater than the EPA threshold 400 ppm.
Based on the preliminary information from our consultant, the City has decided to prohibit access to any sampled area within a park measuring above 400 ppm. Fencing and detailed signs will be installed to mark the area and provide educational and health resources no later than Friday, August 4.
- Fencing and detailed signs will be installed to mark the area and provide educational and health resources no later than Friday, August 4.
- Further analysis of each area above 400 ppm along with short and long term solutions in accordance with the EPA and NCDEQ will be provided in the final report.
- In-person community conversations and engagement opportunities will take place in three (3) intervals: 1) prior to August 15; 2) at the point of releasing the report and; 3) after the report is released.
Update on Soil Analysis Memo
Screening Map: East Durham Park
Screening Map: East End Park
Screening Map: Walltown Park
On June 1, 2023, the City of Durham received a report created by a student enrolled in Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. The report recommended further soil assessments be conducted in certain areas of Walltown, East End, and East Durham Parks due to findings of soil lead amounts as part of their student research project. The student report also recommended that we assess Lyon and Northgate Parks, based on historical accounts of the land use prior to becoming parks approximately 70 years ago.
The safety of our residents, employees, and guests is a priority we take seriously. Therefore, we immediately contracted for an independent, scientific assessment to be completed with a contractor certified by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) to conduct environmental assessments.
- What parks are part of the independent scientific study?
- Can the parks be used while the independent scientific study is underway?
- Is the drinking water in Durham safe?
- When will I hear more about the independent scientific study?
- Where can I find public health information about lead education and awareness?
Environmental Assessment Experts Hired
Founded in 1993, Mid-Atlantic Associates is an engineering and environmental consulting firm that has worked in Durham for a number of years and provided their expertise on many large-scale projects, including a Brownfields assessment and remediation services to support the redevelopment of Golden Belt in downtown Durham.
Mid-Atlantic will conduct an environmental assessment of all five parks following the guidelines established through the NCDEQ’s Registered Environmental Consultant Program.
The work plan for the City’s multi-park soil assessment is complete. This plan directs and outlines Mid-Atlantic on how they’ll perform this study, to include but not limited to:
- Where they’ll collect samples (including playground sites)
- How they'll collect samples using the guidance, best practices, and methodology of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ).
- When, where, and how elements in addition to lead will be analyzed.
This plan extensively builds upon the data initially collected by the former Duke student by going beyond their initial research and using industry best practice tools and methodology approved and supported by the EPA and the NCDEQ. Second, the plan’s scope of work was informed by a collection of resident feedback, subject matter experts, and public health officials.
|Environmental Assessment Timeline|
Week of July 17
Mid-Atlantic to begin implementing the work plan and collecting soil samples (weather dependent) at Northgate, Lyon, East End, East Durham and Walltown parks.
Sample collection will not interfere with normal park use.
Week of July 24
Anticipated completion of soil sampling (weather dependent).
Now expected by August 15
Soil analysis to be completed and the findings made available to the NCDEQ and the City of Durham.
Anticipated Next Steps:
Once sample collection and analysis are complete, the City will publicly share the findings and provide any future plans, next steps, or further study recommendations through multiple communication methods and venues including, but not limited to:
- Public meeting(s)
- Directly contacting neighborhood representatives and liaisons near the five parks
- Neighborhood Improvement Services Department community engagement teams
- Community partners and networks
- DPR’s Soil & Property Testing webpage
- Social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Instagram Threads, and Nextdoor from @CityofDurhamNC and @dprplaymore channels
- City Connect and/or Durham Digest newsletter articles
- News release issued to local print, television, and radio media outlets
Continued Operation of Our Parks
In addition to the health and safety of our residents, we take any reduced access or potential park closures seriously as we know how important our parks are to our community. We have consulted with Mid-Atlantic Associates and the Durham County Department of Public Health about the risks of continued operations of these five parks based on the maps provided in the student report. We’ve also reviewed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and State statutes that guide lead abatement and remediation work.
While originally no play areas were identified as potentially concerning, one soil sample at an unlined playground at Northgate Park tested above the EPA threshold and has been closed as of August 11.
Therefore, as these soil assessments take place in June and July, they will not interfere with the normal programs or operations at these five parks.
Public Health Information
The Durham County Department of Public Health manages the Lead Education and Assessment Program (LEAP), which offers services to increase lead education and awareness.
LEAP's website has helpful information about ways you can protect your family from possible lead exposure. Visit their website, email their staff, or call 919-560-4842 for further information and assistance.
Upcoming Community Meetings
To be announced.
Transparency and communication are priorities for us. We will continue to update the public through multiple communication methods as findings, future plans, next steps, and further recommendations become available.
We also understand that parents and park visitors may have questions or concerns about visiting these five parks while our environmental assessments are underway. We’ve developed the above frequently asked questions to help residents make decisions that best fit their comfort levels when deciding to visit one of these parks.
With more than 65 parks available to our residents, we also have many great places to play this summer so families and park visitors have other options for play, if they so choose.
Bilingual signage has been installed to notify park visitors of the environmental assessments underway with a QR code directing visitors to this project website and more information.