By James Taylor

ELK GROVE (CBS13) — The site of a proposed elementary school in Elk Grove is suffering a setback after a survey found hazardous levels of chemicals on the property.

An old orchard in southern Elk Grove is supposed to be the site of the city’s newest school. Once built, Laguna Ridge East Elementary will have 34 classrooms and up to 850 students.

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Parents in the neighborhood are happy to hear the district is building a campus close to their homes.

“It’s going to be really nice just having the kids being able to walk or ride their bikes to school,” dad Michael Clements said.

But what’s underneath the former farmland is now digging up a dilemma.

A toxic substance survey of the land has detected elevated levels of chemicals harmful to humans.

“A property such as this, which is an agricultural land, there are bound to be things in the soil,” Elk Grove Unified School District spokesperson Xanthi Soriano said.

The hazardous substances include lead and pesticides. Arsenic was also found in amounts more than four times higher than maximum background levels.

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Investigators say the site “provides an increased cancer risk” and “future exposure likely poses a human health risk and hazard.”

“We would not be able to build on this particular site unless we received approval that the site met the standards that it needs to meet for a public school,” Soriano said.

Officials looked at capping or treating the property, but they say the best remedy is to remove the contaminated soil. More than 550 cubic yards — about 40 dump truck loads — will be excavated and trucked away to a disposal site.

“Once the site is so-called clean, then at that point in time we will begin the approval to go ahead and build,” Soriano said.

Parents say they’re hopeful the school won’t pose a hazard once cleanup is complete.

“I can’t imagine them opening a school on that land without making sure all the precautions are taken,” mom Kristen Waller said.

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Despite the discovery, the Elk Grove district says the school remains on schedule to open in the fall of 2022.