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The site of a planned splash pad along the Capital City Trail at the Goodman Community Center

Mike DeVries -- The Capital Times

Goodman Community Center plans to open a splash pad this summer that it hopes will become a destination for families using the Capital City Trail on the east isthmus, but some remain concerned about the safety of the soil underneath the site.

“We want people biking with their kids to stop and use it and then come to our café and eat or have some ice cream,” said Becky Steinhoff, executive director of the community center. “The community is excited about it; we wish it was open now.”

Construction is expected to begin soon on the $300,000 water feature, to be built adjacent to the bike path in a paved area where some benches now are located. It will be paid for with a gift from the Goodman Foundation, named for the Madison philanthropist brothers Bob and Irwin Goodman, who were major donors in 2007 for the conversion of the former factory to a community center.

But Steinhoff admits she is frustrated by continued questions by some community groups about the possible dangers to kids and others who will be splashing around on the concrete pad.

“I remain a little confused as to why taking an industrial brownfield site, and cleaning it up and remediating it and repurposing it into a vibrant community hub and resource keeps coming up as a negative,” Steinhoff wrote earlier this month in the online forum of the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara Neighorhood Association. No one has brought their concerns directly to her, she said.

Steve Klafka, an environmental engineer who is active in SASNYA, has been asking in the discussion group why the Department of Natural Resources is not requiring additional testing of soil excavated from the site, as required in documents signing off on use of the site as a community center.

The DNR required then that the contaminated soil — chemicals detected included lead, arsenic and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons created by burning petrochemicals — be capped by concrete pavement or a layer of clean soil.  If the cap were removed, more testing of soil was to be done.

The splash pad project will remove the existing concrete pad near the bike path, excavate soil for installation of a water tank, and replace it with a larger concrete pad.

“The splash pad is right at the center of our neighborhood's pollution problems,” says Klafka.

The Goodman Center is across the bike path from Madison-Kipp Corp., which paid a $7.2 million settlement to neighbors who said it contaminated their properties and continues to work on a decades-long plan to clean up its own property and groundwater below it.

The Midwest Environmental Justice Organization also has raised concerns about the safety of installing a splash pad at the site.

The file on the Goodman site shows high levels of some contaminants that are considered potentially dangerous to human health, said Linda Hanefeld, remediation and redevelopment team supervisor for the DNR.

But the requirement for further testing is to “make people realize is there is contamination in the soil there and if they dig it up, it needs to be managed appropriately. The fact that Goodman will be taking the soil to a landfill and will be telling workers to take appropriate precautions is meeting the intent of that requirement,” Hanefeld said.

Robyn Seymour, a hydrogeologist whom Goodman hired to consult on environmental issues on the project, said that the types and concentrations of contaminants reported at the time the site was redeveloped are “not uncommon” for industrial sites that are repurposed.

Steinhoff said that anywhere from 18 inches to 4 feet of dirt was excavated — and replaced with clean fill — in areas of the site not capped with concrete. And the site was extensively investigated by the DNR, she said.

The splash pad will use water from the municipal water system, to be stored in an underground impermeable tank, and recycled through the splash system. The area also will be fenced to prevent kids from running out onto the bike path, Steinhoff said.

The splash pad will operate when the center is open, she said. Goodman staff will oversee the splash pad only when children in center programming are using it.

Steinhoff said that the splash pad was planned at the time the site was redeveloped, but planned public funding for it did not materialize.

“It certainly fits into Bob and Irwin’s vision and what they loved — outdoor recreation and activity,” Steinhoff said.