CLEARFIELD — With the naked eye, you can’t see why Clearfield High School’s baseball field needs caution tape around the infield dirt.
But if you stick around long enough, you’ll be able to smell why.
Clearfield’s baseball field is shut down for the foreseeable future after one of the baseball team’s coaches dumped a significant amount of diesel fuel and gasoline onto multiple parts of the infield dirt more than a week ago.
The fuel was then lit on fire to dry out the dirt and make it suitable for a game, according to a Davis School District spokeswoman.
“The school district is choosing not to have any games on the field … until the soil is clean,” Davis School District Community Relations Supervisor Shauna Lund said.
Historically, when baseball coaches or groundskeepers try to use literal fire to dry out a field, it’s for a small puddle or muddy spot no more than a few feet big.
The fuel is usually mixed with sawdust, lit on fire, and once it’s done burning, the field is dry and the person doing the burning rakes that part of the field. Ask any baseball coach and they’ve probably done it at least once or twice.
In the case of Clearfield High’s field, the fuel wasn’t applied in a single spot — it was applied in multiple spots comprising a fairly large surface area.
When contacted Friday, Clearfield head baseball coach Steve Ross told the Standard-Examiner that he’s been advised by the school district and school administrators not to comment.
At first look, nothing appears out of the ordinary with Clearfield High School’s baseball field.
A closer look reveals the caution tape, the black outlines that purportedly show precisely where the fuel was dumped and thus the reason why the Davis County Health Department will be overseeing a cleanup of the site.
The health department received a complaint March 25 from somebody who said they could smell gasoline fumes at the field. Health department officials forwarded that complaint to the school district.
“When contacted, we immediately began investigating,” Lund said.
School district officials inspected the site along with health department officials, which is when the district made the decision to rope off the infield and move Clearfield home games to a different site.
Initial testing conducted at the field last week revealed the contaminants were diesel and gasoline, according to Rachelle Blackham, the Davis County Health Department Environmental Health Services Division Director.
More testing on the site was carried out on Monday morning and afternoon to determine how far down into the ground the contamination goes.
The district is hoping to get the latest soil sample results this week.
At least three large areas, outlined in black, were visible on the infield dirt Monday afternoon between first base and third base.
Each of the outlines had either “Diesel” or “Un-lead” written in the center, apparently indicating what type of material was applied where.
The cleanup will be done by a to-be-selected environmental cleanup company retained by the school district. The contaminated soil will have to be dug up, removed and replaced with uncontaminated soil.
Until the most recent test sample results come back, there’s no indication of how long the cleanup will take, how much it will cost, how much dirt has to be removed or what sort of repercussions the school and district may face.
Further complicating the cleanup is the amount of moisture the area received last week to go with expected storms to come the first week of April.
“They aren’t using the field, there’s not a hard deadline, but at the same time as we continually get moisture, it costs more to clean it up,” Blackham said.
“In general if you put something on the ground and add water to it, it does move quicker through soil,” Blackham said on Monday.
The health department itself oversees the cleanup to make sure it’s done in the proper fashion. Another potential cost point could come in the form of a fine from the health department, which has such authority.
The incident, according to Blackham, would be in violation of Davis County Board of Health Illicit Discharge Regulation 5.1.
The regulation reads, “A Person may not discharge or cause to be discharged any Pollutant into any storm drain system or watercourse, onto the surface of the ground on public or private property, or into air unless authorized by law.”
The health department also has a category system when assessing incidents that it’s involved in. Category A is for the most severe type of incident, while Category E is for the least severe type of incident.
Which category this incident falls in to and how much, if at all, of a fine is incurred won’t be determined until potentially months later, Blackham said, once the department has been able to fully analyze the incident.