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Demolition is expected to begin within a couple of weeks at a Lackawanna playground where arsenic has leached from the wooden equipment into the bedding and nearby soil.

Several other communities with similar playgrounds built during the past three decades are facing the same problem: lumber treated with chromated copper arsenate, a chemical preservative used to keep the wood from rotting and splintering.

Lackawanna officials said they had the Martin Road playground tested after reading local news reports of arsenic contamination found at playgrounds in Eden and Amherst, among others.

"It's better that we just remove it (and) make sure the ground isn't contaminated," Mayor Norman L. Polanski Jr. said. With a grant application for new playground equipment pending, the mayor said he intends to "make the playground better than it was."

The playground was shut down before the start of the summer recreation season. A large sign announces the closing, and orange vinyl fencing encircles the site.

The Martin Road playground was erected in October 1994, on land donated by the city and featuring equipment bought from BigToys Inc. with funding from various grants and fund-raisers.

"It was a great community project," recalled the mayor, who said he was among the team of volunteer builders.

BigToys Inc., based in Olympia, Wash., removed products treated with CCA from their lines in September 2001. Other playground manufacturers have done likewise.

Thomas N. Love, Lackawanna's engineer, said testing was completed in early July. The presence of arsenic contamination was announced during a July 19 City Council meeting.

"We feel that it's best that the playground be dismantled and destroyed and replaced with a new one," said Love, echoing the mayor's comment.

Love said he asked the tester, Watts Engineers, for a recommendation about the equipment.

Andrew Klimek, environmental department manager at Watts, said they don't give recommendations, per se, because neither state nor federal officials have definitively addressed the issue.

What he does suggest is possible actions to be taken, in relation to the degree of contamination. They include yearly maintenance -- whether cleaning or sealing -- to removal and replacement of structures.

"What I have found is none of the levels I have come across in a half-dozen or so locations . . . were hazardous," he said. Lackawanna included, he added.


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