The City of Cottage Grove will spend approximately $30,000 to renovate the steps of the armory after recent lead tests revealed an elevated level of the substance in the facility's drill hall.
The test, conducted earlier this year, focused on obtaining new lead readings for the city-owned facility as fundraising efforts are currently underway to revamp the building. It's the city's hope that the armory eventually serve as a community center and event hall.
Just under a dozen locations popped positive for lead in the baseline industrial hygiene assessment conducted by the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine in March of 2004. One of the highest readings was on the kitchen counter top that had been used as storage and a workspace according to Cottage Grove City Manager Richard Meyers. That reading was 236. The latest reading for the same area was 11.9.
The only area to come back higher than the 2004 test was the site tested in the drill hall; the space community members gather for fundraisers and award nights.
In 2004, the area tested at 49. In the latest test, the result was 96. According to Meyers, the city's theory is that the space is directly in the path of visitors walking from outside--specifically up the stairs leading to the armory.
"That's lead paint on the stairs. And we think people are tracking it in," Meyers said.
To verify the city's suspicions, Meyers ordered the stairs tested as well. The bottom section of the stairs closest to street level tested at 30. The middle section at 31 and the top level just before entering the armory tested at 97.
"You can see it building up on the stairs," Meyers said.
As for why the middle section tested lower than the bottom section, Meyers said it could be explained by where the test area was located.
"It's where he draws the square. If he moved over a foot, that reading could have been higher."
In light of the new readings, Meyers said the city is planning on renovating the stairs outside the building at a cost of approximately $30,000.
"We have to do the stairs anyway," Meyers said.
Once the stairs are completed, Meyers said the city plans to do another cleaning of the armory and test the area again.
"It’s conceivable that, with concrete stairs with lead paint can be responsible for tracking," said Perry Cabot, a senior program specialist with the Multonmah County Health Department who is responsible for providing resources and education on lead poisoning prevention within the county. It would be a sensible explanation, he said, but without knowledge of the remediation process he said it’s impossible to know if it’s the sole culprit behind the elevated test. “There’s no way to say it’s only from tracking.”
Cabot suggested that in other armories the ventilation system could be the culprit for spreading lead dust but according to Meyers, the Cottage Grove armory does not have a ventilation system.
"We don't have one!" he noted. "We have the old boilers and the ceiling fans."
Meyers also noted that the city has been remediating the building as the restoration progresses.
"We clean, we treat everything like it has lead because it's an old building," he said. "All of our contractors and people who work on the building are certified for lead."
The remaining re-tested areas of the armory came in lower as well including a spot in an office that went from 73 to 17, a basement sample that originally tested at 164 and came down to 51 and the highest reading of 2004 that measured at 345 came down to under five in the 2017 test.
Environmental Testing and Training Northwest out of Salem conducted the tests on the armory and the results were processed by SanAir Technologies Laboratory, Inc. which is accredited by the Better Business Bureau.
Coming renovations on the armory include the exterior, which Meyers says is next on the list after the stairs and subsequent testing.
"We'll get the outside looking really nice," he said. "And we'll continue our fundraising."
Editor’s note: As part of our service to the community and mission to provide the most accurate information available, The Cottage Grove Sentinel agreed to fund half the cost of the latest lead tests performed on the armory after being approached to do so by Cottage Grove City Manager Richard Meyers. The testing was performed by a third-party, licensed company and the results were obtained by The Sentinel and are available to the public.