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Anaconda school stadium closed due to potential contamination

Some Anaconda residents are upset after the school district found potential contamination underneath the football stadium last week.

School district officials say last Friday they were looking at an old sewage pipe when they discovered the exposed rail line.

"Typically they test about 12 inches down in the soil, and this is closer to 18 inches, and so we weren't aware that there were any tracks at the time," Superintendent Justin Barnes said.

He tells NBC Montana the school shut down the stadium on Wednesday out of safety concerns that the railroad track might be contaminated. The track used to transport materials to the Anaconda Smelter stack.

"There's the potential that anything could have spilled, could have gone off these railroad carts, and it could be leaking into the soils," Barnes said.

The news came as a shock for resident Becky Hotalen.

"I’m very shocked and disappointed. The community is very down and hurt because they should have took more action and consideration for the kids’ sakes and their safety. People should be more aware of it, " Hotalen said.

Barnes says the football stadium isn’t just used for playing football.

"They use this facility nonstop throughout the year. Even when snow hits, people still try to walk the tracks, try to walk the bleachers up there," Barnes said.

He says for now they've asked the county to do more soil sampling. If that soil is contaminated, they'll keep the stadium closed through next spring.

That doesn’t sit well with Hotalen.

"Being exposed by health issues like that, that's totally disappointing, because there's elderly people that walk up there," Hotalen said.

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