McGrath Park: Lead Levels Spotted On Trails

mcgrath parkPhoto: Amusements and Parks

No detection on soccer fields or playground area in McGrath Park; signage, fencing will be posted; Salem Parks are places where all (young and old) gather to enjoy nature, walk, exercise, play, and gather with family and friends

SALEM, Mass.—Testing of soil samples from a wooded area with walking trails adjacent to the upper soccer fields at McGrath Park in Salem has been found to have elevated lead levels. The samples were collected at shallow depths of 0’ to 1’ from the surface. The levels detected in the shallow soils and the use of the site as part of the park triggered immediate notification requirements to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP).

In compliance with MassDEP requirements, the impacted area will be closed to access immediately. The City is working with the Department of Environmental Protection and a consultant from an environmental engineering firm to conduct further testing to ascertain the extent of the contamination and create a plan to mitigate the hazard. No elevated lead levels were detected in shallow soils within the soccer fields or in the playground area.

This isn’t the first time that contaminants or chemicals have been detected at the park.

An FAQ with additional specific information is provided below.


Frequently Asked Questions: McGrath Park and lead

Q: What is lead?

A: Lead, a naturally occurring metal, is abundantly found throughout the Earth. It has been used in a wide variety of products including gasoline, paint, plumbing pipes, ceramics, solders, batteries, and even cosmetics. Read more about lead at this website from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences:  While lead is naturally occurring, the concentrations found in the wooded area exceed what is considered normally naturally occurring levels of the element.

Q: Where did the lead come from?

A: This park site is proximate to the location of a former municipal waste disposal site from the early 20th century. It is probable the lead contamination was derived from the disposal of waste at that location in the early decades of the 1900s. A previous project conducted by the City of Salem several years ago remediated similar contaminants on the majority of the soccer fields and playground areas, which are now safe.

Q: How much lead is there?

A: Concentrations of lead detected in shallow soil within the wooded area range from 400 parts per million (ppm) to 7,900 ppm.

Q: What levels or types of lead are considered unsafe for human contact?

A: Findings above 200 parts per million (ppm) in soil require that MassDEP is notified, while findings above 3500 ppm require that the area be closed immediately.

Q: My child played or plays at McGrath Park, how concerned should I be?

A: Because the lead was in the wooded area adjacent to the main park area, use of the soccer fields or playgrounds would not bring an individual into direct contact with the soils with the elevated levels of lead. Complete details about the potential dangers of lead, including symptoms, testing, and treatment are available from the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry at As stated above, previous remediation work cleared contamination from the more commonly utilized parts of the park.

Q: What happens next?

A: As required by MassDEP, temporary fencing will be set up around the impacted area of trails and woodland immediately. Public entry into these areas is prohibited until further notice. The City’s environmental engineers will conduct additional investigations at the site as necessary so that a remediation plan can be developed.

Q: Will the soccer fields or playgrounds be closed?

A: There is no plan to close the soccer fields or playgrounds at McGrath Park as no elevated lead levels were identified in shallow soil within those locations.

[From A News Release]

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