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A dry skate park should open in summer

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Tuesday December 04, 2001

Construction on the Harrison Skate Park is underway again more than a year after the project was abruptly halted when the carcinogen Chromium 6 was discovered in groundwater on the site. 

The city has approved a $385,000 contract with Altman Engineers to construct a series of concrete skate bowls, some as deep as eight feet, at the southeastern corner of Harrison Soccer Field at Fifth and Harrison streets.  

The city spent $235,000 to remove and treat toxins on the site and according to Parks and Waterfront Director Lisa Caronna the money was well spent.  

“We have been continually testing the water at the site and the results show the treatments have been successful,” Caronna said. “We’re really excited to be moving ahead with this project. Now it’s just a matter of the rains staying away.” 

Caronna said the 18,000-square-foot skate park, which will include a host of skateboard features such as four to five-foot-high ledges, rails and rolls, will be finished this summer in time to accommodate an increasing number of skateboarding enthusiasts.  

“The popularity of the sport is growing and I see more and more skateboarders on the street everyday,” she said. 

According to Kevin Thatcher, the publisher of the San Francisco-based skateboard industry magazine THRASHER, there are now 11 million skateboarders, mostly under 18 years old, nationwide who qualify as “skaters.”  

“’Skaters’ are the kids who skate three to five times a week and usually have a scar or two, to show for it,” he said. “If you want to talk about the kids who have a skateboard in their closet that they use once in a while, the number is more like 20 million.” 

Construction was halted last November when the former contractor, Morris Construction, struck groundwater while excavating the skate bowls. Secore International was hired to pump the contaminated water into 20,000 gallon holding tanks where it was treated and released into the sanitary sewer. 

In addition the groundwater below the site was treated with bisulfates, which changed the Chromium 6 into the non-carcinogen Chromium 3. Then the bowls were filled with crushed rocks and sealed off, according to city Hazardous Materials Supervisor Nabil Al-Hadithy. 

Al-Hadithy added that despite the discovery of Chromium 6 in the skate bowls last year, the health risk was very low because Chromium 6 is dangerous only when ingested or inhaled. “From the time the groundwater showed up in the bowls there was an extremely small chance of its being ingested by human beings,” he said. 

The project, including clean up costs, is now at about $620,000, which is about $235,000 more than the original estimates. Caronna said the city is looking at its option on recouping some of the clean-up funds from the original source of the Chromium 6, Western Roto Engravers Color Tech on Sixth Street, which is located two blocks away from the skate park on Sixth Street. 

Construction began again last week on a redesigned skate park but the project has already experienced a minor setback because of the three inches of rain that fell over the weekend. The stormy weather filled the skate bowls with two-feet of rain water. As a safety precaution, Caronna said the water will be pumped out, filtered and released into the sanitary sewer. 

According to Altman Engineering Superintendent George Johnson, once the rain stops and the water is removed from the excavated bowls, the project will be finished quickly. “If we get some good clear weather, we can roll on this thing and have it done by April,” he said. 

Harrison Field has been controversial since the city purchased the land from the university a few years ago. Opponents of the park claim it is located in an environmentally questionable area. The park is nestled among three industrial manufacturers, Interstate 80 and a waste transfer station.