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Environment & Climate Change

Arsenic, lead found in soil at Leslie Science and Nature Center

The Leslie Science & Nature Center holds many summer camps and adventure programs.
Flickr // Leslie Science & Nature Center

New results of soil testing done at the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor show elevated levels of arsenic, lead, and copper, among other heavy metals and semi and volatile organic compounds.

The center conducted testing back in May, and the results were released on June 20. 


In a statement released June 24, Susan Westhoff, the executive director of the Leslie Science and Nature Center, said that the grounds will remain open, but with added safety precautions.

“At the discretion of the City of Ann Arbor, the Leslie grounds will remain open," says Westhoff. "However, temporary fencing has been installed to prevent access to the areas tested and signage will be installed to inform park users to avoid these restricted areas. A second round of tests is planned by the City of Ann Arbor and we will update you when the results of those tests are received and understood. Those results are expected within the next couple of weeks.”


The statement also said the summer camps and programming will continue at "an alternate outdoor location," and signage will be posted at areas with especially high levels of the heavy metals.


LSNC made the decision to test the soil after an unnatural depression was discovered near a play area. According to LSNC, an old, handmarked map indicated that there may have been a dump site in the woods. No play structures or current programming areas are near the potential dump site.


Gerald Tiernan is a district supervisor for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. He says the history of the LSNC grounds could be the reason behind the elevated levels of harmful chemicals.


"Mr. Leslie ran a petrol chemical lab there historically, and information about its existence was just recently discovered. And it used to be an apple orchard as well. It being an apple orchard could explain the arsenic."


Tiernan also says that EGLE will be in talks with the center and the city of Ann Arbor to discuss long-term solutions to the problem.


"Typical scenarios for sites like this, [for] recreational uses, is some type of exposure barrier, sometimes just limited excavation, other times there's just a new layer of soil put down over top of it; demarcation fabrics can be used underneath new soil being put in on top to mitigate that exposure."


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