TRENTON, N.J. (PBN)  January brought the first hints of trouble as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) partnered with the City of Trenton to collect soil samples from Sony Vereen Playground, Breunig Avenue Park, and Grant Avenue Playground. What they found sent ripples of alarm through the neighborhood — elevated levels of lead, a silent menace lurking beneath the innocent grass and play structures.

By Tuesday, the signs went up, stark and warning in their red and white, declaring the presence of lead and urging caution. The EPA, with grim determination, mapped out their plan. Some areas of the parks were to be cordoned off, declared off-limits as they became battlegrounds in the fight against contamination. Other sections remained open, but even there, the vigilant eye of the EPA watched, ready to swoop in with protective measures.

For the residents of East Trenton, it was a call to action and a reminder of the fragility of their children’s safety. Parents now walked the parks with a different purpose, eyes scanning for danger in the soil, hands guiding little ones away from temptation. The simple joys of playing in the dirt became a luxury they couldn’t afford.

But the story didn’t end with warnings and closures. The EPA’s investigation delved deeper, tracing the roots of this contamination back to the pottery industry that once thrived in the area. The legacy of lead left its mark not just in the parks but in residential properties, schools, and the very fabric of the neighborhood.

Over 130 properties were tested, revealing a troubling truth — lead was not just a park problem but a community-wide issue. The EPA’s efforts expanded, installing protective measures in homes, schools, and wherever the threat lurked. It was a battle fought house by house, street by street, to shield the most vulnerable from harm.

As the seasons turned and spring painted the parks with new life, the EPA’s work continued. Free soil testing became a lifeline for residents, a chance to know and fight against an invisible enemy.

The EPA will continue to offer free soil testing to residential property owners inside the East Trenton Study Area in the Spring and Summer of 2024. If you would like the EPA to test the soil at your own property for free, please call Jonathan Byk at (347) 899-6210.

Thomas Peterson is the Editor in Chief and founder of Peterson’s Breaking News of Trenton. Thomas founded PBT in 2012.