SILOAM SPRINGS – Ominous yellow caution ribbons flutter in the wind at two local playgrounds forcibly abandoned after school district officials received results from recent arsenic tests on Tuesday.

Samples from pressure-treated wood taken from the Koala Community Playground at Northside Elementary School and the playground at Southside Elementary School came back from the laboratory positive for the toxic element.

Of the four samples that were sent to the laboratory, results showed that three were positive for arsenic.

” We’ve conducted some tests and received laboratory tests from the University of North Carolina-Ashville, and have confirmed the presence of arsenic in the wood, ” said Kent Raymick, Siloam Springs School District assistant superintendent. ” We simulated tests with someone brushing their hands on the wood’s surface and ingesting it, and results showed that there could be a possible amount of arsenic ingested. “

The entire Koala playground and three of Southside’s structures contain the lumber that was treated with chromated copper arsenate, a substance that is no longer used, Raymick said.

According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Web site, CCA had been used to pressure-treat lumber since the 1940 s. In the past 20 years, it was commonly used to treat outdoor structures. Use of CCA was discontinued in January 2004 through an agreement between wood manufacturers and the EPA.

Prior to its discontinuation, the compound was frequently injected into lumber during manufacturing as a protective pretreatment against structural rotting, insects and microbial agents.

Corresponding with the announcement to cordon off the play sites, cautionary tape and warning signs appeared at both locations. Until further notice and effective immediately, the structures have been closed for student and public use. The playgrounds will remain empty until a decision can be made about their imminent future.

Built in August 1998, the Koala Community Playground was erected by 2, 205 volunteers over a six-day time span. The collaboration was spearheaded by the Northside Adopt-A-School organization in cooperation with the Parks and Recreation Department, school officials, patrons and community members.

School officials and community leaders now must contend with the issue of what to do with the existing facilities that have been deemed potentially hazardous. 

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