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DENTON -- After years of public safety concerns and controversy, Denton city leaders say the time may finally be right to replace a playground built with wood that oozes arsenic.

The story is nearly a decade old:The Eureka Playground is located at South Lakes Park, just North of Teasley Lane.

When community volunteers built Eureka almost 20 years ago, they used lumber treated with a preservative called CCA, Chromated Copper Arsenate. The idea was to kill insects.

But there was a problem that came with it: CCA-treated wood leaches highly-toxic arsenic.

"When you see kids play on this, they're touching everything," said Denton parent Carol Soph.

A sign at the playground entrance warns parents, many of whom allow their kids to play here while wondering if it's safe.

"It kind of worries me," said Chandi McLane, a Denton mom.

When volunteers built Eureka in 1994, wood treated with CCA wasn't considered a health concern. That changed 10 years ago, when the Environmental Protection Agency ordered restrictions on CCA.

Soph and her husband have waged a long battle to persuade Denton leaders to rebuild Eureka. The city instead chose to use a sealer on the wood twice a year to prevent arsenic from leaching.

The Sophs argued the sealant wears off from weather.

But now, after years of concern and debate, city staffers are calling for the old playground to be torn down and rebuilt with plastic and steel.

"It's time," said Denton Parks and Recreation Director Emerson Vorel. "It's due for replacement. It's due for an upgrade."

A proposal calls on voters to decide if Eureka would be rebuilt as part of a bond election next fall.

"I'm very happy about it," Soph said. "It's been 10 years since the EPA started phasing out this wood and recommending that they don't use it in playgrounds."

The Sophs say when the playground comes down, the soil under it will have to go, too. They believe it's contaminated with arsenic.

City officials say while tests taken here do show the presence of arsenic, the levels are extremely low and not considered a health threat.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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