POTTSTOWN — It could be two years or more before residents of a southside neighborhood can use Pollock Park again.
A study is required to more clearly define the location of contaminated soil, before a plan to clean it up can be filed, approved and, hopefully, funded, said Michael Lenhart, director of Parks and Recreation for Pottstown.
"We have to clearly delineate the contamination," he said, confirming that the small flags seen around the park are "proposed drilling sites" to begin that process.
That study must be completed before the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will approve a remediation plan.
And before all that happened, the federal Environmental Protection Agency needed to take a look and make sure the contamination is not bad enough to constitute an emergency that requires immediate federal action.
It's not, said Lenhart, so the EPA kicked the issue back to the state and the borough.
"They determined it's not an immediate hazard," Lenhart said of the EPA review.
The park was closed just before Thanksgiving in 2017 as the borough was in the process of planning upgrades to the park.
A “phase two” environmental review of the property was conducted as part of the planning and the contractor, Environmental Standards of Valley Forge, notified the borough that contaminants of concern at the two-acre property between Cross and South streets are heavy metals, lead and chromium.
Additionally, a 157-page environmental report issued in January, 2018 “identified the presence of metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in soil above currently applicable” state safety standards at the park.
It was also discovered that beneath the thin layer of top soil was a combination of soil and fill, consisting of metal, brick, glass, slag and wood.
In soil borings, the investigation also discovered the heavy metals arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, selenium and mercury; the volatile organic compounds of trichloroethene, and two kinds of PCBs among others, all above the levels recommended for public parks by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
From at least 1909 until the 1970s, the site was part of a metal scrap yard, according to the report, but the borough did not acquire the property until 1979, and converted it into a park that now has a playground, basketball courts, a short trail and a small parking lot.
Across from Pollock Park is another parcel at 860 Cross St., surrounded by chain link fence, that the borough is considering adding to Pollock Park’s acreage.
The site of a former polyurethane manufacturing plant, that .86 acres has been found to have contamination as well, according to an environmental assessment completed in July 2017.
In 2001, trichloroethylene, better known as TCE, was discovered in the soil and groundwater at the site; and in 2003, polychlorinated biphenyls, better known as PCBs were found in the soil, according to the report.
Lenhart said further action on that site, including taking ownership, is on the back-burner until things get straightened out with cleaning up Pollock Park.
The Pollock Park cleanup will depend on obtaining a series of grants.
Lenhart said the borough is currently waiting for work on a grant application made to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to pay for the study delineating the exact location of all the contamination.
That grant would pay 75 percent of the roughly $84,000 cost. The other 25 percent is being picked up by the Montgomery County Redevelopment Authority, Lenhart said.
If approved, "we can start the work this summer and complete it in a couple of months," said Lenhart.
"If the funding is not approved, we have to go back to the drawing board," he said, adding "$84,000 may not sound like a lot of money, but it is a lot of money to our parks and recreation budget."
As for the actual cost of cleaning up the park, that won't be known until the pending study is completed, he said.
Once that cost is known, the funding obtained and the remediation work done, the borough still faces the task of finding funding to pay for the park upgrade master plan designed with the help of neighborhood residents over the course of several meetings held at Pottstown Regional Public Library last year.
When all is said and done, even assuming all the funding is obtained in a timely manner, it's "conceivable" that it will be two years or more before any one is using the new multi-purpose field, dog park and playground planned for the park, Lenhart conceded.
"We want to bring that park back, it has a lot of potential," he said.