OSCODA – After a dig on the Oscoda High School football practice field, it was determined that just junk, not potentially harmful chemical-laden electrical transformers, were buried in the field.
Maintenance personnel, and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Environmental Manager Michael Jury was on hand for a dig, May 22, to look for the harmful materials, which officials feared contained PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls).
What was found, however, was mostly copper roof flashing and gutters, a few old steel handcart pieces, various bits of metal, old glass bottles and soda cans, as well as hunks of burnt wood. One piece of metal – with holes spaced along its length – may have once been the football team’s practice field watering trough.
Jury ruled out the presence of electrical transformers, which were rumored to be buried in the field. According to Moore, staff said the source of a sinkhole on the field were the transformers, which were allegedly buried on the property before it was a practice field, 40-50 years ago.
Moore contacted MDEQ officials as a precaution and a dig was recommenced to determine if there was any truth to the allegations.
He said he contacted officials last fall, but due to circumstances the dig was delayed until this spring
Before the dig, Jury determined the presence of metal under the ground with both metal detectors and sonar, and said the materials would have to be dug up in a process called “test pitting.”
“The staff seemed to have a general area where this was due to the sinking of the ground, that is what got us started,” he said. “We put a quick grid down and had some strong hits in these two areas.”
He said the presence of buried material could cause the ground to settle.
“With all the metal that came out of there, as the dirt would settle around it, you have frost trying to push it out of the ground and you have rain trying to push it down, so you get settling from that,” Jury said.
He said the site looked like there may have been old construction materials that staff burned, and then buried in the ground. After it was determined nothing buried was harmful, the refuse was taken out and the holes were filled.
“We did have the major concern that there was a buried transformer, and that could be a big deal, and that is why we’re out here to make sure we don’t have that,” Jury said. “There are many areas, dumps across many counties in Michigan, where people have dumped stuff for ages and burned and buried things. The good news is we didn’t find any of that, the better news is we have recyclable materials, and that is a positive.”
Moore said he was very glad that nothing harmful was buried in the ground. He said because the current water testing in the area no PCBs have shown up, so that was an indicator that the site was OK before the dig.
“It’s a lot better than I was expecting; anytime you talk about that and you start digging into Pandora’s box, you really start to worry, from a budgetary standpoint perspective, excavation can be a pretty costly venture, also getting rid of things that are contaminate based,” he said.
Moore said the materials were recycled and the copper was valued at $936.
“We have a stockpile of scrap material that we take out, we come across a lot of scrap from the bus garage,” he said. “We are grateful and Jury has been real good.”
In the end Jury said the transformer story could be chalked up to “urban legend.”