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Anaconda park contaminated with arsenic, lead

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BUTTE, Mont. - Tests have found elevated levels of arsenic and lead in the children's sandbox at a Montana town's city park. The contamination was well above levels the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe.

New test results show that Benny Goodman Park in Anaconda is contaminated with high levels of lead and arsenic, according to a study paid for by Anaconda-Deer Lodge County. ?Of particular concern is a sandy area where a sandbox, a playhouse, a slide, swing set and other playground equipment are located. The area, frequently used by children, had some of the highest arsenic and lead concentrations of the 54 samples taken across the park. In the first 2 inches of soil arsenic concentrations were over three times the threshold the county contractor compared the results to -- 724 parts per million compared to a 210 ppm threshold. Lead concentrations in the playground area were over double the Environmental Protection Agency standard -- 817 ppm compared to a 400 ppm EPA threshold. The sandy area is a big concern for county CEO Bill Everett. Without a barrier of grass it's far easier to be exposed to the toxic elements. He told NBC Montana on Thursday that by the end of Saturday the sand would be removed from the area. It's more action, he says, than the EPA recommended for him to take. ?Everett says it took a mandate by county government to get testing done when they were preparing to add a sprinkler system to Benny Goodman Park. "My biggest concern off the top is why has it taken 30 years (to test the park for toxic material)," Everett says. "We've had two generations of children playing in this park. It's not right." Everett stated he has crews sampling sandy areas at other parks in Anaconda and is also concerned about school grounds. As for Benny Goodman Park, the Appel family may have been the last people to use the playground equipment for a while. After they were informed about the arsenic and lead, they packed up and left along with another family in the park early Thursday afternoon. "We'd brought our kids here before many times," said mom Heather Appel, "and to find that out is disturbing." The future of the park as it is now is uncertain. Contamination in many areas for both lead and arsenic reached down to 18 inches below the surface. Everett says the county, the EPA, and representatives from British Petroleum will meet on a conference call Friday to plan what's next. BP owns part of the Atlantic Richfield Company, which bought the Anaconda Copper Mining Company in the 1970s. Lead and arsenic are both toxic to humans, and children are particularly sensitive, especially to lead. Arsenic has been linked to cancer and is classified as a known carcinogen by the EPA.

EPA is planning to remediate about 1,000 properties in Anaconda for excessive toxic metals in the soil thought to be caused by the now defunct copper smelter.

Atlantic Richfield Company has offered to replace the contaminated sand with new sand.

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