Toxic cleanup effort planned at Hillview Middle School


Residents living near Hillview Middle School in Menlo Park received a letter last week from a state agency notifying them that the school district is in the planning stages of a project to clean up a contaminated portion of the 9.36-acre campus that is now undergoing major reconstruction.

Ahmad Sheikholeslami, director of facilities for the Menlo Park City School District, said the district knew about the contaminated soil long before the district broke ground on the school's reconstruction project, and had included the cleanup project in the overall construction budget.

The Nov. 15 letter to residents from the state Department of Toxic Substances said elevated levels of chlordane were found in the southern portion of the site. Mr. Sheikholeslami said the contaminant is found in the agent used to kill termites, and was likely used when the school buildings were constructed in the 1950s.

The site targeted for cleanup is on the southern portion of the campus, which will be a playing field once the school reconstruction is complete. Mr. Sheikholeslami said the contamination is in the soil surrounding buildings that will be demolished; the soil is now covered with fabric and mulch and will remain so until it can be removed, which is scheduled to happen over the summer.

The Department of Toxic Substances oversees cleanup projects at school sites, Mr. Sheikholeslami said. The letter to nearby residents is part of the protocol that must be followed before the cleanup project begins, he said.

The remainder of the campus is contaminant free, he said, and the entire campus "is safe for the kids right now."

The project to construct 80,000 square feet of new facilities and an open playing field at the site is scheduled for completion in 2012.

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