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The longest yard: Brack digs up its dirty football field

Neighborhood watchdog Santiago Escobedo sounded the alarm yesterday: Brackenridge High School is scraping its football field bare, and he worried that the earth removal was related to the benzo(a)pyrene-contaminated pile discovered in 2006 when the EPA tested the property for potential asbestos residue from the former W.R. Grace plant across the river. (That round of testing eventually led to the discovery of significant asbestos contamination on the property now known as Big Tex, but the high school was asbestos-free, confirmed EPA PIO Dave Bary.)

The Texas Commission on Enviornmental Quality instructed the San Antonio Independent School District to remove the berm that was contaminated with benzo(a)pyrene, which it did last year. During that process, workers discovered remnants of a basement from a school building that was demolished circa 1973, said Brackenridge Principal Linda Marsh, which led to further testing and the discovery that the field was significantly polluted with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (which include benzo(a)pyrene)

The TCEQ says the PAH come from decomposing roofing and building materials. The District is removing 12 inches of topsoil, and will install a plastic liner before replacing the dirt and turf. But the SAISD will have to continue to monitor the groundwater, and a deed restriction will be attached to the property's title.

That's a lot of alarming-sounding remediation for an old building-demo site. Escobedo wonders whether a former power plant and incinerator adjacent to the school aren't the real culprits, especially in the case of the berm that was removed last year. In a letter that was sent to school parents in 2006, Marsh reported that "Benzo(a)pyrene is formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas, garbage, or other organic substances like tobacco or charbroiled meat."

Escobedo, you might recall, is one of SA's own Erin Brockoviches. He was one of the citizens who worked overtime to force thorough testing of the Big Tex site, which led to a major asbestos-removal effort there this winter.

"The reason the neighborhood is suspicous `of the current Brackenridge cleanup` is for the very reason that removal occurs without any notification or explanation to the community," wrote Escobedo in a followup email. QueBlog agrees that the school district isn't the only entity that needs to do some digging.

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