BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – Briarcliff High School and Middle School's contaminated ball fields are drawing attention from national and international news outlets, which are asking if the toxins in the soil might have created a cancer cluster among students in the school district.
The Huffington Post recently published an article detailing the legal claims made by the families of former students Nicholas Birch, Demetri Demeropoulos and Nicholas Mazzilli, who have notified the district that they intend to sue. Birch died of a brain tumor in February at the age of 12 and Demeropoulos died in 2010 at 18, while Mazzilli has recovered. The story notes that the families of at least 10 other students believe that the schools' contaminated playing fields led to the students contracting various cancers.
The Daily Mail, a British news site that has likely never reported on Briarcliff Manor before, also ran a piece on the fields this week.
State Department of Environmental Conservation inspectors found the softball field and practice field to be contaminated in 1999 and issued a violation to the school district. The fields became contaminated in 1998 in a fill for fields deal in which a trucking company promised to fill the fields with clean material but reportedly deposited about 100,000 cubic yards of construction debris that did not meet DEC requirements, according to officials. The district started cleaning up and sampling the fields but further remediation ceased in 2004 when the board of education opted not to fund additional testing. Instead, the board decided to deposit additional fill on the fields and cover up monitoring wells.
The Board of Education agreed in March to remediate the practice and softball fields. The board’s decision allowed for site investigation company HDR to submit an official remediation action plan and soil testing results to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC would ultimately need to approve the plan before construction and student use could resume.
Mike Valenti, a Briarcliff Manor resident who has spoken out about the issue previously, commended the article from The Huffington Post.
“The article is informative, balanced and well researched. It is worth noting that the author did neglect to contact the most important State Agency in this process - The NYS Department of Health,” Valenti wrote in an e-mail. “I continue to urge our School Administrators as well as our Board of Education to take the utmost conservative approach to the remediation plan and amend it to include an impermeable layer between the contaminated soil and the proposed new clean fill and natural grass.”