School District No. 46 (SD46) superintendent Patrick Bocking said he cannot provide a timeline for how long it will take to clean up seven playground fields that were covered with topsoil last week contaminated with shards of plastic, ceramic, wood and glass. As of Sept. 11, Bocking said some fields are getting close.
“I’d love to say by the end of the week we’d be done and hopefully we will be, but that will be based on assessing the situation,” Bocking told Coast Reporter.
About 13 maintenance staff are combing the fields with buckets, alternating directions in a line to systematically cover the area, using rakes to raise the soil. “It’s a very thorough process that we’re using and that’s why it’s taking the time that it is,” Bocking said, adding that the fields “have probably never been as clear as they are right now.”
To ensure the fields are clean, Bocking said staff will inspect them and “when we can’t find anything to pick up anymore then we know we’re done.” He also acknowledged that since the community uses them after hours, perfectly pristine fields are no guarantee.
Bocking said a resolution with the contractor, which he said cannot be named, “could take some time.”
“When you have any kind of a difficulty with a contractor then you work with the contractor, you don’t put it out for public discussion,” he said for why they cannot be named. He did, however, confirm the topsoil is from off Coast.
Currently the district is “actively working on understanding the whole supply chain of what happened in the situation,” Bocking said.
According to a letter sent to parents by the school district, “three bids were received for supplying the materials. One of the factors of consideration is cost because we need to be efficient in our use of funds.” The letter also states that the contractor has not been paid. “The understanding with them was to provide appropriate topsoil which they did not.”
“After many, many, many years of receiving this kind of material, it never being an issue, and suddenly this material is on our fields was quite a shock and deeply frustrating to us as it has been to our community,” Bocking told Coast Reporter.
The playgrounds are set aside for recreation at the school level and most aren’t used for extracurricular organized sports. Affected schools are elementary schools in Madeira Park, Halfmoon Bay, West Sechelt, Davis Bay and Roberts Creek, as well as Elphinstone Secondary and the Sechelt Learning Centre.
“I have been inspired by the many messages of support and generous volunteers who have stepped forward in a positive way to help us out with this challenging situation,” said Bocking of the community’s response.