City officials closed part of a popular Salem park after toxic elements were found in the soil there.
Lead and cadmium were found in samples at McGrath Park when a crew discovered tainted soil while testing the feasibility of installing sewage pipes for a possible bathroom at the park, said Doug Bollen, Salem's Director of Park, Recreation, and Community Services.
Toxicity levels in the soil "do not pose an immediate risk to human health," Bollen said, quoting information he received.
"We were made aware of it on Monday," Bollen said in a telephone interview this morning. "This was when we decided to shut it down."
The site was a dump before the city converted it to park, Bollen said.
Marie Leger, 65, whose backyard overlooks McGrath Park, said she does not recall the park ever closing due to contamination since it opened in the early 1980s. It was a dumping ground when she moved into her Marlborough Road home in 1976, she added.
"Every weekend there's a lot of kids playing soccer there," Leger said this morning.
Bollen echoed the statement, saying the now cordoned off soccer field at McGrath Park is probably the most used soccer field in the city.
"I think on a sat about 600 kids will be on the field" on Saturdays during soccer season, Bollen said.
According to Bollen, the city has no specific time frame for the park's partial closure. Officials will likely wait until they can assess the situation and find out the contamination's cause before deciding when the soccer field can open.
In the meantime, Bollen said, recreation and other officials are working to find a place where soccer teams can play in the interim.
"We're meeting tomorrow and working with the university and schools to find an alternative," Bollen said.