DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Five Durham parks where children play have lead contamination in the soil. The elevated levels were confirmed last month in areas of Walltown, East End, East Durham, Lyon and Northgate parks.

After frequently taking his child to one of the parks, Marcus Southern plans to get his young son tested for lead by Durham County Public Health.

“Now, I kind of reflect on that in a different way, when I think about the time that my pregnant wife spent in the park, that I really wish I’d known at the time had lead in the soil,” Southern told CBS 17 back in August.

The Durham County Department of Public Health said just two children have come into the clinic for free blood lead testing since the testing began on August 31.

Medical Director Jeff Jenks said he’s not sure what those results showed, but free screenings are still available.

“If you’ve spent a lot of time at these playgrounds and parks, it’s certainly not a bad idea,” he said.

In terms of fixing the problem at those parks, a city spokesperson tells CBS17: “We are waiting on some additional guidance from NCDEQ, including whether we qualify for the state’s Pre-regulatory Landfill Program, to help determine long-term and short-term solutions for remediation.”

There’s no timetable for when they’ll get that guidance.

“We continue to reinforce that the most likely reason if a child’s lead level does come back elevated, it’s probably not due to being at the parks,” Jenks said. “It’s probably due to some exposure at home either from lead paint or lead piping.”



To be eligible for county blood testing, children must be 6 months old to 6 years old.

“There’s of course the broader cost to the community,” Southern said. “And we’ll probably never get a real good handle on whose health was genuinely impacted here.”

The contaminated park areas remain closed. When the state gets back to the city, Durham plans to schedule more community conversations and a public meeting.