GHS headmaster says no connection between student rashes and contaminated soil

After several student athletes developed skin rashes, Greenwich High School Headmaster Christopher Winters has said there’s no link to the contaminated soil under the fields.

Dr. Winters sent a letter home to parents on Thursday, saying that several students on athletic teams had developed skin rashes and that there was one confirmed case of a skin infection. All students have been treated and have returned to class and sports and Dr. Winters told the Post on Friday that the rashes are mild and that there’s no reason to believe it was caused by exposure to the soil.

“There’s absolutely no connection,” Dr. Winters said, saying that it’s believed that open wounds and exposure to team rooms and athletic equipment led to the issue.

Two years ago it was determined that there is soil on campus that is contaminated with PCBs and other heavy metals, likely due to bad fill used during the initial construction of the school more than 40 years ago. The town has done extensive testing work since then and determined that students were not at risk of exposure unless the contaminated soil made contact with bare skin.

However, temporary measures were put in place, and approved by both the state and the federal government, to make the fields usable. Students have been using the fields without incidents since last fall.

The town is currently seeking public comment on a remediation plan that will attempt to permanently remove the soil from the campus over the course of the next two summer breaks. The Board of Education met Thursday night about this and is expected to formally endorse the plan next month. Once the town gets approval from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, it is hoping to get started on the remediation, which is slated to cost between $13 and $17 million, as soon as school ends in 2014.

Dr. Winters said in the letter to parents that the school was “working closely” with the town’s Department of Health and that, as a precaution, professional cleaners would come into the school this coming weekend to “thoroughly clean” all team rooms and athletic equipment, including helmets and chin straps.

Student athletes were urged to take all their athletic clothing, like uniforms and towels, home to be cleaned this weekend.

Parents were told that if they notice their child developing a skin rash they should consult with the school’s nurse or see a medical professional. All students were instructed to keep their abrasions covered and clean. Staff was expected to speak to all GHS teams about proper hygiene on Thursday.

 

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