As we said in this space a little over a month ago, there is nothing wrong with the site off N.C. 5 where the new Aberdeen Elementary School rises. That’s despite the warping, misreading and mischaracterization of facts and history by some in an attempt to foment opposition to school redistricting and Superintendent Bob Grimesey.
Those attempts have been enough, however, for reasonable people to be worried — regardless of facts to the contrary — that the site is at risk of contamination from nearby sites that are part of the federal list of polluted properties known as Superfund sites.
And so Grimesey told the Board of Education and the public last week that the school district would spend another $25,000 to do what’s known as a “Phase 2 analysis” environmental study.
“It’s a shame that we are forced into doing (the Phase II study) because I think we stand united that the property has the kind of quality, location, safety … everything is there in Aberdeen that we want, and it will truly serve our students in a very safe and habitable manner,” said school board Vice-Chair Libby Carter. “I hope that this will prove to folks that we would not take a step forward that would harm our children in any way.”
Polluted, Then Restored
Look, governments are capable of doing some crazy things from time to time. But given what is widely known about Moore County, its school officials and its decision making, we’re confident no one is recklessly building schools in dangerous locations.
The site was subjected to a thorough and rational — and publicly available — environmental study in 2015 and 2017.
Yes, the new school site sits between two of five Superfund sites that had been the location of pesticide manufacturing and disposal. The current Aberdeen Elementary and Primary schools are also near sites and in far less desirable locations than this new school. This is part of Aberdeen’s unfortunate history.
All five sites were the subject of a multi-
million-dollar cleanup in the 1980s. Hundreds of tons of soil were cleaned and replaced, monitoring wells were sunk, and trees were planted to absorb trace elements left in the ground.
The new school’s location sits uphill of the two nearby sites, meaning groundwater would have to defy the natural laws of physics to flow into the new site.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reviews the Aberdeen sites every five years and releases reports to the public. Its reports in 2013 and 2018 indicate no concerning health issues.
Answer the Doubters
Why, then, spend $25,000 on this study? No amount of money can buy you certainty that disaster will never befall, but a Phase 2 environmental study is as close as the school district is going to get in convincing everyone that the new Aberdeen Elementary site is safe for our children.
OK, fine. Let’s do it.
Unfortunately, no environmental study will guard us from the hazards of toxic politics and personal agendas that seek to undo the school district’s attempt to redraw attendance lines and balance out student demographics.
As we’ve said repeatedly, there is reason for parents and others to be vigilant, questioning and skeptical of the redistricting process as it proceeds this fall. What the school staff ultimately suggests to the Board of Education will affect 13,000 children and families. No one causing that much change gets a free pass from scrutiny.
But let’s focus on the real issues at hand and not the poisoned politics that masquerade as “concern” for our children. Because if that agenda came up against a litmus test, it would register off the scales for acidity.
Test the dirt. Don’t fling it — and soil all of us.