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Arsenic Fears Spur Action

Dec 4, 2002 | Wakefield Observer The wooden playground equipment at the Spaulding Street Park will only be seeing one more summer on the edge of Lake Quannapowitt.

Plans are in the works to replace the well-used equipment, said Recreation Director Roger Maloney. Not only is it worn out, but a chemical used to preserve the wood has caused concern among parents whose kids play at the park.

Chromated copper arsenate, or CCA, a wood treatment that contains arsenic, is present in the playground structure.

The Environmental Protection Agency, with cooperation from the wood industry, called last February for stores to stop selling wood treated with CCA for residential purposes, according to the EPA's Web site. By January 2004, the EPA will not allow CCA-treated lumber to be used for playground equipment, decks or other residential structures.

An EPA press release said, "The EPA has not concluded that CCA-treated wood poses unreasonable risks to the public for existing CCA-treated wood being used around or near their homes or from wood that remains available in stores." The EPA did not say existing structures should be removed.

The Town of Wakefield is erring on the side of caution, though.

An independent company has tested both the wood on the structures and the surrounding ground for arsenic, Maloney said. The results are not yet available.

"It's probably fine, but you don't want the opportunity for a youngster to have health problems," Maloney said.

Concerns were raised earlier this month when a Wakefield resident brought up the CCA question, Maloney said.

Money for the new equipment will likely come in the form of $25,000 from the Recreation Department's capital outlay budget, which will not be decided until April, and from money raised by the Wakefield Center Neighborhood Association, Maloney said.

Plans had already been in place to install equipment suitable for small children on the playground. Arsenic concerns gave enough of a reason to replace all the equipment.

"As far as (the Recreation Department is) concerned, we were going to put a tot lot there anyway," Maloney said.

The new equipment will be steel with a plastic coating and should be easier to maintain, Maloney said. If all the money is raised from the department's budget and from the WCNA, the company that manufactures the equipment will install it, rather than the town doing the installation.

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