Palmerton Area School District will receive a $20,000 settlement for remediation work to the Coal Bowl playground.

The school board on a 7-0 vote Tuesday approved the settlement agreement between the district and TCI Pacific Communications, Inc. Directors Kerry Beidleman and William Ravert were absent.

Resident Barry Scherer questioned the board about the details of the settlement, at which point district solicitor Steven Serfass addressed the matter.

Serfass confirmed that the payment is for remediation of the playground at Franklin Avenue, where soil samples conducted at the area by the state Environmental Protection Agency were found to have turned up elevated levels of lead and other metallic elements.

In July, the board announced that it would cost the district $11,000 to add new soil to the playground area. That price didn't include labor and trucking.

That announcement came after the board held a special meeting in June, at which time it hired Atty. William Schwab as legal counsel at a rate of $125 an hour at an amount not to exceed $1,000.

Charlie Root, an EPA project manager, informed the board at that time that levels of lead, cadmium and arsenic were found that were higher than acceptable standards.

Root also said at that time that while not an inhalation risk, the area was an ingestion risk due to the presence of the metals. He then recommended the district seek a professional environmental firm to look at the area.

The proposed new playground area is adjacent to the grass area around the existing macadam that Root said the EPA sampled back in 2002.

The board at that time hired Barry Isett & Associates to oversee environmental services for the Coal Bowl at a cost of $3,900.

All that action transpired after members of the S.S. Palmer Elementary P.T.O. Beautification Committee in April began a project to refurbish the playground after it said the area sustained years of neglect.

As a result, work at the site came to a halt as officials awaited the results of the tests conducted by the EPA to determine whether the area - which had previously been used by the school's Environmental Education Club - was environmentally sound.

At present, the playground typically accommodates about 100 students for recess at a time, and is used heavily for a summer program hosted by the Palmerton Area Recreation Committee.