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Ann Arbor boosts funds for nature center pollution cleanup

A section of soil is fenced off at the Leslie Science and Nature Center on June 27, 2019 after reports of contamination in the area.
A section of soil is fenced off at the Leslie Science and Nature Center on June 27, 2019 after reports of contamination in the area.

ANN ARBOR – Officials are conducting more tests and excavating contaminated soil to address pollution that was found on the grounds of a nature center in Ann Arbor.

The City Council this month approved a $431,000 contract increase for environmental consultant Tetra Tech to complete remediation work at the Leslie Science and Nature Center, MLive.com reported. The City Council also approved another $43,100 in contingency funds.

The center halted plans to build a new playscape after workers discovered an unnatural depression in the woods and an old map showed a potential dump site. The city reported test results in late June showing elevated levels of heavy metals at the site, specifically arsenic and lead, which could pose a danger if ingested.

The city initially approved an emergency contract with Tetra Tech in May for $16,000 to probe the condition and gather initial soil samples.

"Time was of the essence as grants secured for the playground needed to be expended this year and because of the desire to protect public health," city parks manager Colin Smith wrote in a memo to City Council.

With the new funds, Tetra Tech plans to conduct more field investigation, including drilling down up to 50 feet to test soil, excavating about 940 cubic yards of polluted soil and installing a vapor-intrusion system for the DTE Energy Nature House.

The remediation plan is intended to restore the property to its prior use, ensure continued ability to develop programming and instill confidence in visitors, Smith said, noting the county provided a $250,000 brownfield grant to help cover expenses.

The nature center is situated on property that belonged to Eugene Leslie and Emily Leslie from 1923 to 1976 and was given to the city when they died. The couple also left the city the land that is currently Leslie Park and the Leslie Park Golf Course.

Eugene Leslie was a chemical engineering professor at the University of Michigan who developed new technologies, such as no-knock gasoline, at the property, the nature center's website said.

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