[No. 09] Indiana, Penn: Not sold on turf, school board wants more discussion about turf.According to an item in Indiana Gazette (Indiana, Pennsylvania), the October 27, 2008, meeting of the school board adjourned without making a decision about the installation of artificial turf for the football and soccer fields. The board will pick up where it left off on November 17, 2008. Josephine Cunningham, a junior high school social studies teacher, told the board, “I see a pattern ... over the past several years: the engine that has run the district has been the athletic concerns of the district. In my opinion, the board has not addressed the environmental, safety, health and financial concerns of this project.” As it turned out, according to the Gazette, “Over the next 25 years, the cost to install and maintain turf would cost the district about $7,100 a year more than the cost of retaining natural grass on the playing fields.” The issue of turf’s heat effect was raised by Kathy baker, the board’s director. She had “measured the air temperatures at various times and locations at Miller Stadium at Indiana University of Pennsylvania - an artificial surface - and at the Fifth Street Stadium at Indiana Area Senior High School, a natural grass field.” In mid-day heat, some of the readings at IUP spiked to 120, 125 and 138 degrees, she said. “I don't want people on our fields on hot days. I would have a problem with the public having access to those fields on a summer afternoon. We have a gorilla in the room. I want another discussion,” she said according to the Gazette. For more on this story, please go to Chauncey Ross, “Proposal for turf prompts more debate,” in Indiana gazette, October 28, 2008, available athttp://online.indianagazette.com/articles/2008/10/28/news/indiana_county/10004899.txt.
[No. 08] Elgin, Texas: School Board seeks advice from grass and field consultant. On October 17, 2008, the Elgin Courier reported that “the artificial turf item has been removed from the October 20 School Board meeting agenda.” “The board will seek a thorough study by a grass and field consultant before any decision is made,” reported the paper. Source: “Artificial turf taken off agenda,” in Elgin Courier, October 17, 2008, available athttp://www.elgincourier.com/articles/2008/10/17/news/news00.txt .
[No. 07] Princeton, New Jersey: Environmental Commission no fan of synthetic turf; needs more info. The Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) met on October 1, 2008, to consider among other things a recommendation by the Recreation Department to install an artificial turf field at the BarbaraSmoyerPark. According to report in Town Topics, PEC needs more information about the environmental impact of synthetic turf. The vice-chair of the town’s Shade Tree Commission “expressed skepticism regarding the need for synthetic turf, saying, ‘to see the park have any of its charm taken away would be a very sad thing.’” The sentiment was echoed in the remark of PEC’s chairwoman, “as an individual, I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.” “Speaking about the potential for synthetic turf-related injuries, and the possible toxicity of materials out of which such surfaces are made, PEC members agreed that they need more information about the turf before making an assessment,” reported Town Topics. Source: Dilshanie Perera, “Environmental Commission covers recycling, fuel costs, questions synthetic turf,” in Town Topics, October 8, 2008, available at http://www.towntopics.com/oct0808/story2.php . The Commission’s website is http://www.princetontwp.org/agendas.html .
[No. 06]Stamford, Conn.: Boyle Stadium turf plan on hold. July 19, 2008. According to a news story in TheStamford Times, on July 17, 2008, Stamford’s board of financed failed to act on “a request for approval of $925,000 to replace the lead-contaminated Astro-turf field with new synthetic turf and address any related drainage improvements failed after no board members seconded member Timothy Abbazia's motion for approval.” Because the life expectancy of a turf field is allegedly 10-15 years, it made no sense for the town to finance a replacement with a 20-year bond. "The bottom line is, you don't go out and get a mortgage on a house for 20 years if your house is going to be knocked down in 10 years," said board member Joeseph Tarzia. "I think this board would be irresponsible to allow a 20 year bonding." For more on this story, go to Chase Wright, “Plan for new turf at Boyle stalled,” in The Stamford Times, July 17, 2008, available at http://www.thestamfordtimes.com/stamford_templates/stamford_story/292160714406979.php . For background on this story, go to http://www.synturf.org/warnings.html (No. 16).
[No. 05]Smithtown, NY: School board postpones turf plan, awaits DEC’s investigative study of turf fields. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. June 28, 2008. Smithtown is a community on Long Island, New York. Last month the Smithtown school board decided to postpone a $2-million plan to install artificial turf fields at both Smithtown High School East and West. According to the Times Beacon Record, “Last month Superintendent Ed Ehmann announced that the district would delay any decision to install artificial turf until the state Department of Environmental Conservation finishes a study that investigates what, if any, potential health risks artificial turf may pose to students. The DEC is expected to release its findings in January, and trustees decided at a May 6 Facilities Committee meeting to reevaluate the installation of the synthetic athletic surfaces at that time. Board of Education Vice President Bob Rossi stressed that the safety of the district's students was the most important factor in the delayed decision. Recent reports have indicated a possibility that athletes may breath in toxic materials that rise from the artificial playing surfaces.” Source: Joe Darrow and Edward J. Hunt, “Projects begin, turf fields on hold,” in Times Beacon record, June 27, 2008, available at http://www.timesofsmithtown.com/Articles-i-2008-06-26-72936.113114_Projects_begin_turf_fields_on_hold.html .
[No. 04] Needham, Mass.: Officials sound cautionary notes over turf, including TPE. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. May 9, 2008. According to a report in Needham Times, “last week the Board of Selectmen met with town health officials to discuss protocols for using the artificial fields, with two planned at DeFazioPark and one being installed at Memorial Park.”
One area of concern with artificial turf is the issue of toxicity of the crumb rubber infill. Peter Connolly, who is a member of the Board of Health, said, “Things that concern me about this is that you don’t know what the long-term effects of this many chemicals will be.” He said he is “comfortable with a plan to monitor the fields annually.” “As one of several precautions, the town is recommending regular testing of water runoff to make sure the fields aren’t toxic,” reports Steven Ryan of the Needham Times.In addition, “[t]he Board of Selectmen also plans to look into age limits for the use of the fields, noting the youngest children would be the most susceptible to any possible toxicity.”
According to Needham Times, the neighboring town of “Wellesley had a debate over the installation of field turf over similar health concerns, eventually deciding to go with a different infill, a product made from thermoplastic elastomers, a clear or colored plastic, rather than crumb rubber.” However, as Selectman Chairman Jim Healy told the paper, there haven’t been any studies done on the alternative infill, referred to as TPE, while also noting the substance would be more expensive. The Board of Health member Edward Cosgrove said, “You’re taking a larger jump in the dark with TPE.”
With respect to the tendency of turf fields to heat up, officials say, “During the hottest periods of the year, we don’t use the fields. If it is a particularly bad day in June or September, we shut them down.”
According to Needham Times, “Health officials pointed out there are higher instances of abrasions on artificial fields … [which] may increase the risk of microbial infections, but health officials were not overly concerned.” “If you just practice adequate first aid, it’s more than likely it’s not going to be a danger,” Cosgrove is quoted as saying.
Lastly, “[a] final precaution is the installation of fences around the fields to prevent folks with animals leaving waste on the artificial turf. Selectmen are also interested in a warranty on the turf to financially insure the town in case the fields are found to be unsafe. ‘The life of these turf fields is 12 years,’ Healy said. ‘It’s not like we’re living with this product forever. We can adapt.’”
[No. 03]Woodbridge, Conn.: Turf plan at Amity High on hold. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. March 28, 2008.
On March 19, 2008, the facilities subcommittee of Amity Board of Education recommended a delay of six months’ in the installation of artificial turf field at Amity High School. The subcommittee would like to gather more information about artificial turf.
According to The Orange Bulletin, the superintendent of schools, John Brady, the cost of installation and replacement of the turf field is a consideration in these tough economic times. He told the publication that the cost on installation and replacement of the turf after ten years will eat up any savings that may accrue due to low maitencne cost of the field. “It’s basically a wash,” he told the publication.
A member of the subcommittee, Susan Jacob, voted for the delay because she “[was] concerned about the health piece,” according to The Orange Bulletin. Similar precautionary notes were sounded by Sheila Wade, the chairwoman of the subcommittee, and also Paul Davis, who is a state representative from Orange who currently is serving on the Environment Committee. This committee is currently considering Senate Bill 361 that will call for the evaluation of health and environmental impact of artificial turf fields. Jacobs cited the pending legislation as a good reason to hold off on the Amity High School project, according to The Orange Bulletin.
The hurry-up offense of the proponents of the project soon ran into a block when it was learned that only 5 days earlier two Assemblymen in Albany had introduced a bill in favor of 6-month moratorium on the sale and installation of artificial turf fields until the health effects of turf fields could be studied (for the Englebright-Colton bill, see this site’s page “Moratoriums”).
The news of the moratorium legislation bolstered the position of the grassroots Anti-Synthetic Turf Action Group of F-M (http://www.geocities.com/fmturf/health.html, email: firstname.lastname@example.org). It launched a website and concerned parents like Valerie Clarke and other citizens began a campaign of public information about the health implications of artificial turf fields and the need for further studying of the product.
On November 19, 2007, the Board of Education voted to postpone the turf project. The Board indicated it would discuss the project in December anyway and it may put it before the voters in March 2008, hoping for a project start date sometime in the fall of 2008. The Board member Dawn Cottrell was quoted as saying, “We are responsible and liable for the safety of our students. Any word that this might endanger our students’ health should be investigated before we put this for a vote.” Elizabeth Doran, “F-M delays vote on new stadium,” in Syracuse.com, November 20, 2007, at http://www.syracuse.com/articles/news/index.ssf?/base/news-12/119555254742880.xml&coll=1.
Comments of officials like Cottrell smack with genuine insincerity and pretend- ignorance. In fact, the health and safety risks associated with artificial turf fields were known wide and far already at the time of the Board’s vote in October. In fact, a group of parents and concerned citizens made a presentation to the Board on October 29 about the subject. See http://www.geocities.com/fmturf/health.html. And yet, Cottrell had the audacity to claim after the vote on November 19 that any word of turf endangering students’ health warranted a postponement of the turf project!
What had changed suddenly between October 29 and November 19? SynTurf.org would speculate the Board changed its mind for now because the proposed moratorium legislation might nix the state financial help for the project. This would put the entire financial burden of the project on the residents/taxpayers, who already in 2004 had shown no stomach for such extravagant projects. Therefore, by taking a necessary wait-and-see attitude, the Board at the same time placated the anti-turf action group, which was quick to commend the Board of Education for its prudent decision. See http://www.geocities.com/fmturf/health.html.
[No. 01] Newton, Mass.: Green Decade Coalition Takes a Stand
Turf issues. The Green Decade Coalition/Newton (GDC/N) urges the Board of Aldermen to require a comprehensive assessment of the environmental impact for the proposed Newton South High School synthetic turf, prior to moving forward with any decision. The GDC/N understands that there are many factors (economics, usage, maintenance, etc.) that must be weighed in determining whether or not to install synthetic turf. However, we feel that the environmental factors have not been weighed adequately to make an informed decision. Included in an environmental assessment, the City should perform a comprehensive environmental life cycle assessment of the synthetic turf against the best natural alternatives, which would be a grass field using organic fertilizers and the appropriate drainage system to mitigate runoff problems. This life cycle assessment would include the evaluation of installation impact, water use, fertilizers, maintenance, and replacement over a 50-year life period. A geotechnical analysis must also be conducted. We understand this analysis is part of the proposal to build the Field Turf. The decision should be made separately from one related to synthetic turf, as it could have similar implications for natural turf. Finally, since the fields ultimately drain into the Charles River, we need to include assessments from the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA), allowing us to analyze the runoff implications. This assessment should investigate water runoff implications of the installation as well as the impacts of regular use. We understand that there is an environmental cost to maintaining the natural fields or installing synthetic alternatives, and that there is great pressure to use and enjoy the public lands. However, the environmental factors will ultimately have direct impact on the health and safety of our children and the City, and we feel that it is imperative that we understand these implications before moving forward with the synthetic turf option. This statement from GDC/N was sent to all members of the Board of Aldermen and published in the Newton TAB newspaper.