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City Officials Vote Whether To Allow Senior Housing On Land Thought To Be Toxic

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UPDATED: Tuesday March 12, 2013 6:58 PM

A controversial vote Tuesday night will determine whether a senior housing facility will be built on land, some consider, to have high levels of arsenic.

It’s a controversy that has gained the attention of environmental activist Erin Brockovich.

The stretch of land, located on the corner of North Union and Church Street in Galion, has had many uses.

Galion City Council President Gail Baldinger said the land in the 1800s was a cemetery.

In the 1900s, it was turned into the Old Galion High School.

"Sometime in the 1960s, the last of the additions were put on and that is when I can remember them digging into graves" Baldinger said.

Galion City Council was slated to vote on Tuesday evening whether to rezone that parcel of land to multi-family residential.

If council votes to change the zoning of the lot, a group called the NOAH project can buy this property from Galion City Schools and build senior housing.

Many are worried the land may have high levels of arsenic, though.

"I do have a concern of the arsenic levels and wondering whether there is somebody left at this location to be dug into.” Baldinger said  “I personally wouldn't want somebody's grave ending up under somebody's living room."

Galion City Schools still owns the land and says it has hired a private company to conduct soil studies.  

District officials said that while soil samples were found to have traces of arsenic, the study found they were not dangerous levels.

"According to the report they are saying that arsenic is normal in the state of Ohio”  School Board President Dennis Long  said. “Whatever the normal is, we are on the lower half of the normal."

Long said the company has reassured him that there is no reason for concern but some residents are still worried.

"I am kind of on the fence here and I am considering voting it down just because of that,” Baldinger said.

The vote will be taken during Tuesday evenings regular city council meeting.

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