The Jessamine County school district announced the closure of the East Jessamine soccer field Wednesday after high levels of bacteria were found.
A test sample of standing water between the field and the home bleachers showed a concentration of E. coli nine times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) acceptable risk criteria, according to a news release from the school district. The field is not located at East High; the complex is off Wilmore Road behind the central-office building and Jessamine Early Learning Village.
“We noticed it when this standing water that hadn’t been there before kind of appeared over the summer, so that’s what first brought it to our attention,” superintendent Lu Young said Thursday. “... it came up badly after that hard rain we had week before last and was still standing, and so that’s when we brought these geotechnical folks in to take a look at it and see if we were dealing with anything other than just rainwater.”
The engineering firm that performed the test told school officials that the field could still be used but to avoid skin contact with water in the area, according to the news release. Nonetheless, the district closed the field to exercise “extreme caution,” the release said.
A perimeter fence with locked gates surrounds the field, and only authorized personnel will have access to it while it remains closed, according to the news release.
Young said Thursday that the water had been seeping down from high ground and then standing before it reached a drain. She said it looked like it could be material from lateral sewer lines. The EPA calls the presence of E. coli in water a “strong indication” of contamination from sewage or animal waste.
Paul Hamann, chief operations officer for the district, was scheduled to meet with an architect Thursday to examine drawings of underground sewer lines, Young said, and the school district plans on asking the city of Nicholasville to run a closed-circuit television device through the sewer system to look for leaks or cracks on the lines.
Soccer scrimmages in the East Jessamine Girls’ Soccer Showcase last weekend were moved to West Jessamine’s field. Young said that change was not due to contamination but to moisture making the field unplayable.
“At that time, we hadn’t gotten the results back, and nobody had said anything about any hazards, so we had planned to play there, but the field itself was wet just from rain, so they moved it to West High,” she said. “Nobody’s played in that area for a while.”
The East soccer teams have continued practice on another field at the complex that is not near the seepage, Young said. The East High girls’ home opener is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 18, against Madison Central; the boys’ home opener is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 23 against Woodford County.
The teams are attempting to secure other possible locations for home games, according to the news release. Young said Thursday she has no timeline for when the problem would be solved.
“We would like to get it rectified as quickly as possible, because everybody hates to think about their home schedule being messed up, even in the county at somebody else’s field, you kind of lose that home-field advantage,” she said. “So we hate that for the teams, so we’ll try to get it remediated as quickly as possible.”