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Roy-Hart School Board OKs DEC request for arsenic cleanup; FMC blasts plan

MIDDLEPORT – Fifteen years ago, the state Department of Environmental Conservation told the Royalton-Hartland Central School District that its campus was safe after extensive removal of soil containing arsenic.

On Wednesday, the School Board approved, 4-2, the DEC’s request for more excavation on the school grounds, as long as the department presents an acceptable work plan for a future board vote.

Superintendent Rogert Klatt said, “I’ve heard comments that the soil that was put in doesn’t help grow grass properly. The board was saying, ‘We’ll approve the cleanup of Phase 1, but that’s contingent upon approving the work plan so there’s some benchmark points in place where we can assess the situation so the grounds will be as good or better than they are currently.’ ”

FMC Corp., which would have to pay for the work because its chemical plant is the source of the arsenic, issued a statement Thursday calling the DEC’s plan “unnecessary and disruptive.”

Klatt said the DEC wants to excavate a field hockey field near the middle school.

He said it’s merely the first of four consecutive summers of digging the DEC wants to carry out on school property in an effort to reduce the level of arsenic in the soil below 20 parts per million, which tests have established as the naturally occurring “background level” in eastern Niagara County.

FMC is proposing a less-expensive plan that would remove only enough soil to move the average arsenic reading on each parcel below 20 parts per million, as the state wants.

FMC sued the DEC after it rejected the company’s idea and insisted on a plan to reduce all soil readings below 20 parts per million, not just the average. The lawsuit is still pending.

The DEC took new soil samples last August in areas not previously excavated. Some readings topped 20 parts per million, and excavation depths will be 1 to 2 feet.

“They’re saying, ‘We don’t think your soil is unsafe, but it could be more safe, and wouldn’t that be a prudent thing to do?’ ” Klatt said.