by Victor Lopez
ECTOR COUNTY-- Ratliff wasn't the only stadium named in this week's report. The AP also mentioned high levels of lead in stadium turf at Birdville ISD, in North Richland Hills. E.C.I.S.D. officials say they actually ordered the tests because they want everyone to know, student safety is their number one priority.
David Finley, Executive Director for Facilities and Maintenance with E.C.I.S.D., took it upon himself to have the turf at Ratliff Stadium tested and doesn't deny there was a positive result for lead. But it was after he talked to the Associated Press, that things somehow blew up in his face.
"Thus the frustration, where there's some implication that this district is not being safe when if fact, that's the whole reason we did it, to begin with," Finley commented.
The testing was done twice in a six month period, in four basic areas; the bottom most layer, called the root system where the lead was found, the turf itself, the air, and runoff water. The results were the same, each time.
"Those conclusions lead us to believe that there is not a safety issue at all, at the stadium," Finley said.
Even if there were something to be worried about, according to Dr. Richard Bartlett, it would take some drastic actions, before anyone's health would be at risk, "Lead is a heavy metal and most heavy metals are a problem if they are ingested, meaning you would have to eat it or drink it."
Finley says there is no EPA regulation for turf systems. The lead levels found in Ratliff were 14 times higher, than those found in dirt, "You are comparing apples to oranges here. How you can make a determination that a whole, intergrated system, has the same components as raw dirt? You cannot do that."
Dr. Bartlett agrees. From a medical standpoint, he says there's nothing to be worried about, "I don't expect to see any major problems. Although it's above the EPA standards, due to the circumstances, I would not expect to see a rash of problems."
Finley says this testing has opened up a way to effectively monitor the stadium, putting E.C.I.S.D. ahead of the game, "This where I feel, as a district, we're out in front of the curve. Now, we know what's there. We know how to monitor it and we know what to look for."
School officials say they will test the stadium at least twice a year. In the event any material is found that may be cause for concern, they will take the necessary action, at that time.