CLEARFIELD — The Clearfield High School baseball team is practicing on their field again, much sooner than many school and health department officials originally thought.
The field had been closed for practices and games since one of Clearfield’s coaches poured a significant amount of fuel — both diesel and gasoline — over large surface areas of the infield dirt on March 23.
“I know that this has caused a lot of media nationwide,” said Rachelle Blackham, director of the environmental health services division of the Davis County Health Department, “but obviously, we would not recommend this practice.”
This has been a common practice in the past among coaches or groundskeepers who needed a fast way to dry out wet infield dirt — usually on an area much smaller than the affected area at Clearfield. Those who used the method would often mix the fuel with sawdust, pour it on a small area of wet dirt and light it on fire. After the fire burned out, the area would be dry.
Blackham sent a letter to Davis School District on April 9 notifying the district that the concentration of diesel and gasoline in Clearfield’s infield dirt was within acceptable screening levels set by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
The state has set acceptable levels of petroleum hydrocarbons in soil at 150 parts per million (ppm) for gasoline, 500 ppm for diesel fuel, and 1000 ppm for total petroleum hydrocarbons, including both gasoline and diesel.
“At this point, we consider the complaint closed,” Blackham said. There will not be any ongoing testing unless there are complaints or evidence that there is additional contamination.
“This is something that the health department does on a regular basis,” Blackham said. “We oversee cleanup. It’s normal for us — the process of taking the report, we compare it to standards, and then issue letters of compliance. I think it’s important that the public realizes that that’s a role that we take ... we make sure that these things get cleaned up... and there’s no harm to the public.”
The school district did not decide on its own what levels were acceptable, she said.
Davis School District put the coach on administrative leave shortly after the incident. He has since been reinstated.
The school also voluntarily closed the field as soon as they were aware of the incident, Blackham said.
Early in the inspection process after the incident occurred, the school district anticipated having to replace all of the infield dirt.
“If we were going to have to take out dirt from the entire infield, it would have cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Chris Williams, director of communications and operations at Davis School District.
Because the dirt does not need to be replaced, the district only had to pay for the soil analysis, which cost $6,000.
Though the county health department reviewed the results of the report, they did not complete the soil analysis.
Davis School District hired the company Terracon Industrial Hygiene and Inspecting, an environmental consulting organization, to analyze the soil. Terracon produced the report that the district submitted to the county health department.
As part of the analysis, Terracon dug 25 test holes around the infield that were zero to six inches deep.
Blackham said she thought the holes were deep enough to get an accurate analysis.
“I believe they made a good call here,” she said.