British Columbia

7 school fields closed after topsoil found to be riddled with broken glass, plastic

The Sunshine Coast school district issued a notice on Tuesday — the first day of school — advising parents that fields seven schools would be cordoned off.

Sunshine Coast school district issues notice saying 'contaminated' soil was applied over summer

Parents say they found chunks of plastic and broken glass at a school field in Pender Harbour, B.C., on Sept. 1, 2018. (Jason Haines)

At least seven school fields have been closed across the Sunshine Coast after topsoil contaminated with shredded plastic, broken glass and shards of wood was applied over the summer.

The school district issued a notice on Tuesday — the first day of school — advising parents that fields at Madeira Park, Halfmoon Bay, West Sechelt, Davis Bay and Roberts Creek elementary schools, as well as Elphinstone Secondary School in Gibsons and the Sechelt Learning Centre, would be cordoned off.

A post from the district said a contractor was hired to apply the "topdressing" to the fields as part of annual summer maintenance. 

"It appears, however, that the soil applied was contaminated," the post read.

The garbage included chunks of plastic, broken glass and ceramics, wood pellets and plastic bags, the school district says. (Jason Haines)

Jason Haines is a professional greenskeeper at the Pender Harbour Golf Club. 

He says he went to look at the damage himself after a fellow parent called him about the contaminated topsoil on Saturday.

"I didn't believe it would be that bad," he said.

Haines said he arrived to find chunks of hard plastic, shards of glass, pieces of ceramic, remnants of wooden pallets and shreds of plastic grocery bags embedded across the field.

Jason Haines, a professional greenskeeper at the Pender Harbour Golf Club, said he went to look for himself and found plastic bags, wood pellets and other chunks of debris in a three-foot section of the field. (Jason Haines)

"It was horrifying ... Somebody is chipping garbage into material that's being spread on the school field," he said.

"It's overwhelming to me as somebody who grows sports fields or sports turf to think about."

District Superintendent Patrick Bocking said staff are going to spend the week picking the trash out by hand, using rakes to comb through the fields for debris.

He said the hope is that the fields will be safe enough to reopen by Monday.

"We really have to do it step by step to clean it out. Of course it is a demand on our facilities crew, but it's what we have to do," Bocking said.

Redoing the sod from scratch would be a last resort, Bocking said, as it would be "extremely expensive" and take months, if not a year.

The superintendent said the district is working with its contractor to figure out what happened, noting that it's worked with the contractor in the past without issue.

Locals have been advised to stay off the fields completely and to keep pets away from the turf.

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