These local headlines tell the story. Twelve days ago, Paraíso de Dios, or God’s Paradise, got a new park. Everybody was at the grand opening – local officials, ministers, families and the local press. Children played, women danced. It was festive.
Why so much rejoicing over a new park? Well, because the park represents a fresh start for the community plagued with an extraordinarily high level of lead contamination.
The park was once a highly polluted plot of land. Just running around barefoot could get children poisoned. Whereas the soil used to contain 11,400 to 463,970 parts per million of lead, it now tests at only 10 to 300 parts per million of lead after Blacksmith-led cleanup efforts. This is a level considered safe in the U.S.
Blacksmith Technical Advisory Board member Dr. Ian von Lindern was there to witness the celebration and to push through further cleanup efforts. After all, the park is only the start of what the local press have been calling the “green zone.”
Dr. von Lindern told me that the Mayor of Haina, where God’s Paradise is located, has agreed to continue working with us. The successful cleanup has energized everyone. A Blacksmith team is scheduled to return to the Dominican Republic in the next six weeks to begin planning the remaining cleanup and to continue testing children for lead.
Today a park, tomorrow the entire city. Slowly, God’s Paradise is moving away from the label of “Dominican Chernobyl” and closer to its namesake.
It’s amazing what a clean park can do for a community.