No fix yet for "contaminated" mulch at two Tulsa parks

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Reported by: Ian Silver
Updated: 10/26/2012 6:31 pm Published: 10/26/2012 6:12 pm

Sections of two Tulsa parks remained closed Friday because there could be hazardous material in the playground mulch.

The city shut down parts of Hunter Park in south Tulsa, and parts of Helmerich Park near 71st St. and Riverside Dr. two weeks earlier, but the questionable mulch remained untouched Friday.

The rubberized mulch is designed to provide a soft landing if a child falls, but city and state officials worry there could be other materials mixed in.

Jack Withrow and his dogs are frequent visitors at Hunter Park. He said he knows mistakes happen, but he couldn't figure out why it was taking so long to fix this one.

"I don't know why we've got to be such big nannies about something," Withrow said. "A job needs to be done. Go and do it, and don't talk it to death."

March's Mulch, an Oklahoma City-based company, provided the rubberized mulch around the playgrounds in question two weeks ago.

But City of Tulsa officials said crews for the parks department thought the mulch was contaminated.

"Some roofing material, some plastic pieces," Michelle Allen, spokesperson for the City of Tulsa, said. "Just unsafe things that we don't have in our parks now."

Tom March, owner of March's Mulch, said he got most of the mulch in question from Tulsa-based Harley Hollan Companies.

When FOX23 News spoke to Harley Hollan Companies owner, Harley Hollan, he said his company was one of many that transported mulch to March's Mulch. Hollan also said it's up to March to process that mulch and make sure it's safe enough to certify for playground use.

March said he spent thousands of dollars developing and testing his processing system, and he's never had a problem before. March said he had no idea what could have gotten into the mix, or how.

But Tulsa isn't the only city dealing with the issue.

"We actually found out about this through other cities that are going through this same thing," Allen said.

Oklahoma City had to shut down seven of its parks for the same reason. The mulch in question there was also provided by March's Mulch.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality continues to test the mulch to figure out what contaminants it may contain, and the safest way to dispose of it without contaminating anything else.

But March said the DEQ tests continue to come back inconclusive. He said that could mean the mulch isn't contaminated at all.

Regardless, park users like Withrow just want the problem figured out and fixed soon.

"Get it fixed and get it open again," Withrow said. "It's for the kids."

March told FOX23 that he will pay any costs associated with disposing of the questionable mulch and replacing it. He said he wanted to make it clear that his number one priority is making sure the parks are safe for children.

Out of close to 140 City of Tulsa parks, only two contained mulch that might have been contaminated. The entire playground at Hunter park remained closed Friday. But other than one "swing pod" at Helmerich Park, the rest of that playground is safe for kids and open for use.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

hpy2beme - 10/29/2012 1:04 PM
1 Vote
I am concerned about the park next door to Harley Hollan's recyling and waste facility. The water run off is effecting the city of Tulsa residents. We use to jog and have soccer practice around the park but the smell, dust, and air quality was making us sick. We cant enjoy the park any longer due to these concerns. I think Fox23 should investigate this a lot more. Especially when it rains the debris from his facility contaiminates the park. How does the City of Tulsa allow a waste hauling business to stack tons of trash in the open air in the middle of Tulsa? Please investigate for our childrens sake!

Mayor Maynot - 10/28/2012 9:19 AM
0 Votes
Sand box 101 :-) Remove the material in question. Replace the material in question with suitable material. Dude that dumped the bad stuff needs to PAY for another contractor to come in and fix the mistake. Avoid this mistake in the future by keeping the violating contractor out of the loop. Pretty simple really.
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