By Debby Woodin
The costs for cleaning up lead-contaminated soil in Joplin parks will range from about $400,000 to $1.5 million, depending on the amount of soil that has to be removed.
The Joplin City Council this week authorized a contract with Crossland Heavy Contractors Inc. for the work. Costs will be paid from a $2.4 million grant the Environmental Protection Agency announced last week to help the city with lead cleanup.
Parr Hill and Garvin parks were closed in June as a result of the detection of heavy metals in the soil left by 2011 tornado damage. The other two city parks in the tornado-damage zone, Cunningham and Mohaska, were tested, and no contamination was found.
City officials believe the contamination came from soil or chat that was exposed when trees were uprooted and houses were destroyed. Mining was done in the central and western parts of the city, and chat from the mines is believed to have been used in building foundations for houses in various parts of town.
The city has posted signs at the parks to notify people about the closures. Parr Hill Park is at 15th Street and Kansas Avenue. Garvin Park is at 28th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.
Because of Joplin’s mining history, the city had an ordinance that required testing of soil at properties where children might be present. After the tornado, the ordinance was expanded to include properties in the tornado zone.
It is not known exactly how much soil will have to be removed and replaced. The city took bids on a base amount of removing 6 inches of soil and replacing it with 6 inches of clean soil, seeding grass and repaving any parking areas.
Six contractors bid on the work. The base bids for Parr Hill Park ranged from the wining bid of $353,189 to a high of $581,200. Bids on Garvin Park ranged from $40,094 to $63,873.
Part of the EPA money is being used to help eligible residents replace contaminated soil in yards.
The city has 55 applicants approved for assistance, with 23 more in the application steps.
Free soil tests are available from the Jasper County Health Department. Those may be requested by calling 417-358-0475 or 877-879-9131.
Applications for the cleanup program are available in the city’s building department on the fourth floor of City Hall, 602 S. Main St. The program coordinator, Leslie Heitkamp, can be reached at 624-0820, ext. 544.
OFFICIALS ARE UNCERTAIN how long the parks will be closed. The city will notify residents when they are ready to reopen.