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About a hour ago, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty showed up at Fort Reno park, along with a gaggle of District and federal officials, to sound the all clear for arsenic.
A little recap: On May 14, the National Park Service closed the park after U.S. Geological Survey scientists discovered a test sample taken there, prompted by a map outlining areas with “distressed vegetation,” well exceeded the federal safe levels for arsenic.
So the Environmental Protection Agency did some more tests and the USGS retested the original sample they had taken. All of those tests—-121 readings taken with an X-ray florescence meter and 33 soil samples—-turned up no evidence of unsafe levels of arsenic.
As for what caused the false positive, USGS spokesperson Michael Gauldin said a “number of factors” could be responsible and says his agency is undertaking an “aggressive review” of the matter.
However, Fort Reno’s toxicity problems are not quite over. NPS honcho Adrienne Coleman announced that one of the test readings revealed high amounts of lead in the soil in one small patch of ground in the northwest corner of the park. That approximately 150-square-foot area, she says, has been cordoned off and the soil will likely be dug out and hauled away. There is no indication as to what caused the lead contamination. George Hawkins, director of the District’s environment department, said folks shouldn’t “be overly concerned” about the lead.
But otherwise, all the cyclone fencing is down, the grass was in the process of being freshly cut, and kids from adjacent Wilson Senior High and Deal Middle Schools were milling about.
Before the press conference, a
beret black-newsboy-cap-wearing Fenty picked up one Deal student’s cell phone and sent the good news to whoever was on the line: “Fort Reno is safe! They can do backflips, play football, whatever. It’s safe!”
UPDATE, 5:45 P.M.: Mayoral press secretary Dena Iverson calls LL to report that Fenty was not wearing a beret, but rather a “black newsboy cap.” LL apologizes for his lack of fashion sense.