[No. 58] Boston, Mass.: State prohibits open space fund for artificial turf. July 2012.
[No. 57] Quebec City, Quebec, Canada: Member of National Assembly questions bid procedure for artificial turf fields. June 2012.
[No. 56] Acquisition of an artificial turf field without a public procurement process. March 2012.
[No. 55] Parsipanny, NJ: Open Space money and artificial turf fields.March 2012.
[No. 54] United Kingdom: The Institute of Groundsmanship voices serious concerns about any replacement of natural turf with artificial turf in professional sport. November 2011.
[No. 53] Marion, Mass.: Town yanks school’s permit for street opening from artificial turf field. September 2011.
[No. 52] Wayland, Mass.: Wellhead Protection Committee recommends removal of artificial turf field as potential source of contamination of water well. August 2011.
[No. 51] Montville, New Jersey: Resident takes BoE to task. August 2011.
[No. 50] Moorestown, New Jersey: Town Council raids the Trust Fund. July 2011.
No. 49] Fairfax County, Virginia: Demographics fuels the un-economical proliferation of artificial turf fields. May 2011.
No. 48] Midlothian, Texas: School district faces premature aging of artificial turf field. February 2011.
No. 47] Quebec, Canada: Inquiry unveils bid-rigging in artificial turf industry. December 2010.
No. 46] Lost in the Bronx! November 2010.
No. 45] KCBS’s video broadcast of The Green Beat on artificial turf is on You Tube. October 2010/Rev. 2012.
No. 44] New York City: City Limits unearths the dirt about city’s artificial turf program. September 2010.
No. 43] Westport, Connecticut: Who’s minding the toxic runoff from the plastic and crumb rubber fields? August 2010.
No. 42] St. Charles, Missouri: Screwed up priorities: Fake grass fields ahead of academics. July 2010.
No. 41] New York City tightens the rules on artificial turf; sets up advisory committee. June 2010.
No. 40] Haeundae, South Korea: Allegation of receiving bribe from turf company may have driven principal to suicide. March 2010.
No. 39] Teaneck, New Jersey: Drainage Study – A Trojan horse bearing turf. March 2010.
No. 38] San Francisco, California: Environmentalists to Planning Department, “Conduct environmental review of artificial turf project at Golden Gate Park.” March 2010.
No. 37] Glen Ellyn, Illinois: Flawed procurement process increases turf cost. January 2010.
No. 36] Connecticut AG to rubber mulch maker: Show the basis of your claims of safety and non toxicity. Dec 2009.
No. 35] The California turf study sidesteps testing in hot weather! November 2009
No. 34] Las Vegas, Nevada: Officials hid information and lied about the lead in artificial turf at children’s shelter.July 2009
No.33 ] Potomac, Maryland: What the …? July 2009
No. 32] New York City: Another “official” whitewash of crumb rubber. June 2009.
No. 31] Waukegan, Illinois: The power of one. May 2009.
No. 30] Needham, Mass.: Town publishes turf protocol. May 2009
No. 29] Needham, Mass.: Protocol for artificial turf use. April 2009.
No. 28] Greenwich, CT: Town sets up Artificial Turf Working Group to keep an eye on turf installations. April 2009.
No. 27] Greenwich, CT: Board of Selectmen will set up turf working group. April 2009.
No. 26] Protecting the turf: How the turf industry played the regulators. April 2009.
No. 25] Upper Darby, PA: No marching band, no turf deal. March 2009.
No. 24] Greenwich, CT: Rules are beginning to shape for turf fields. March 2009.
No. 23] Concord, Mass.: Environmental consultant rips town’s “expert” on turf. February 2009
No. 22] Concord, Mass.: Sweeping it under the rug. February 2009.
No. 21] Newton, Mass.: Board of Aldermen adopts eco-friendly turf resolution. January 2009.
No. 20] Gift or curse? Beware of anonymous donors! January 2009.
No. 19] Newton, Mass. Aldermen resolve for “eco-friendly” artificial turf fields. January 2009.
No. 18] Springfield, Ill.: AG’s office is reviewing health and environmental concerns about artificial turf fields. November 2008. No. 17] Stamford, Conn.: The “hurry up, no huddle” turf decision perverts the democratic process. November 2008.
No. 16] Connecticut: Hiding the inconvenient truth. November 2008.
No. 15] Southington, Conn.: Board of Ed has questions about safety, health and cost of turf. October 2008.
No. 14] Brockton, Mass.: Artificial turf (fake grass) does not green space make! October 2008.
No. 13] No New York state education money for turf with less than 15 years life cycle! (September 2008)
No. 12] In Palm Beach, Florida, turf does not count as “open space” (September 2008) No. 11] Soccer club sues over problems with its artificial turf (September 2008) No. 10] Fake Grass in Rancho Mirage: Laying waste to the desert (September 2008)No. 09] Auburn, NY: School District says “No, thank you” to private money for turf (August 2008)
No. 08] Bayonne, NJ: Redevelopment Authority says synthetic is cost prohibitive (August 2008) No. 07] New Kensington, PA.: Beware of creeping cost overruns (July 2008) No. 06] Middleton, NJ: Turf contractor nightmare (July 2008) No. 05]Bainbridge Island,WA: City wants assurances that turf field will not harm water quality (July 2008) No. 04]Edison, NJ: School board rejects private grant for turf field (June 2008) No. 03] Anne Arundel County, MD: County Council orders audit of turf contract (June 2008) No. 02] City of Newton, Mass. Athletic Field Drainage Review (November 2007) No. 01] Scarborough, Maine: Bid invitation for turf fields (2006)
[No. 58] Boston, Mass.: State prohibits open space fund for artificial turf. Guive Mirfendereski, SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. 22 July 2012. On 8 July 2012, the governor of Massachusetts signed into law the FY 2013 state budget, which included a number of amendments to the state’s Community Preservation Act. The Act is very much like legacy funds, green funds, or open space funds in other states. In the case of Massachusetts, the CPA provides a method for municipalities to fund the acquisition, creation and preservation of open space, the acquisition, creation and preservation of historic resources and the creation and preservation of community housing. Following a controversy in the town of Wayland and later in the City of Newton, which challenged the use of CPA money for artificial turf installation, another controversy questioned the appropriation of CPA money by the City of Newton to “rehabilitate” land for recreational use that was not originally acquired or created by CPA funds. While the facts on the ground and text of the law were very clear, several municipalities spend CPA money on replacing natural grass playing fields or woodlands with artificial turf. In 2008, the state Supreme Judicial Court sided with the ten Newton taxpayers that the City’s use of CPA money to improve the existing playgrounds and playing fields violated the law, because those parks were not acquired or created originally with CPA money.
Meanwhile, the state legislators introduced a bill in order to “strengthen” the Act by making a series of amendments that in essence would allow municipalities a greater latitude in spending CPA money. At a public hearing before the joint committee on community development and small business, 29 September 2009, a number of activists from Concord, Newton, Wayland, Weston, and Weymouth testified to inappropriate expenditure of CPA money on synthetic playing surfaces under any condition. At the time the chair of the Finance Committee, who presided over the hearing declared that no CPA money would be allowed for artificial turf. Henceforth, that prohibition entered the subsequent drafts of the bill and survived a review of the bill by a committee of citizens from several jurisdictions and headed by the president of Newton League of Women Voters and further discussions with the representatives of the community preservation coalition and state municipal association.
The new language of Section 5(b)(2) of the Act now provides, “With respect to recreational use, the acquisition of artificial turf for athletic fields shall be prohibited.”
[No. 57] Quebec City, Quebec, Canada: Member of National Assembly questions bid procedure for artificial turf fields. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. 14 June 2012. Sylvain Pagé, a member of the Parti Québécois, represents the riding of Labelle in the Laurentians at the provincial National Assembly of Quebec. At the meting of the Assembly on 7 June 2012, the minister of education, Michelle Courchesne, came under attack over the government’s subvention (subsidy) of sports fields and equipment at public and private schools. According to Sylvain Pagé “le nombre de terrains de soccer synthétiques dans la liste des projets subventionnés soulève des questions. Les soumissions faisaient en sorte qu’un seul produit se qualifiait, celui de Field Turf. Or, les coûts au mètre carré variaient parfois de 50%.” He said “C'est quand même incroyable, on parle de coûts plus élevés que pour les stades de la NFL.” Source: Denis Lessard, “Écoles et infrastructures: Courchesne attaquée de toutes parts,” in La Presse, 8 June 2012, available at http://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/quebec-canada/politique-quebecoise/201206/07/01-4532838-ecoles-et-infrastructures-courchesne-attaquee-de-toutes-parts.php .
Translation: “the number of synthetic soccer fields in the list of the subsidized projects raises questions. The bids were in so that a single product qualified - that of Field Turf. However, the costs per square meter sometimes varied by as much 50%. “It is still incredible – we are talking about costs higher than those for the NFL stadiums.”
Note: For an earlier and exhaustive coverage of market distortion in artificial truf bids Quebec, seehttp://www.synturf.org/process.html (Item No. 47) (“Quebec, Canada: Inquiry unveils bid-rigging in artificial turf industry. December 2010).
[No. 56] Acquisition of an artificial turf field without a public procurement process. Say, municipality X has a plot of land that it is dying to convert to an artificial turf field. The Muni has fallen on hard times and it can ill-afford to pay $1 million to acquire the field. The voters are against any special measure to finance such a project; but the booster and the sports lobby – along with their political vote-counting allies in City Hall – will not rest until they get a synthetic turf field. Naturally, the first thing that anyone would think of is to get a “white knight” putting up the dough for the project. Absent that, some would try to fundraise through soliciting donations from supporters. Some would even seek a private-public sector partnership for a percentage of the $1 million layout. Wheels churn and the news of this unrequited desire for plastic fields research a savvy artificial turf company – let’s call it ATco. ATco’s salesman, or a sports consulting firm that routinely specs or picks or recommends ATco’s products to prospective buyers, approaches the boosters with the idea that they should set up a nonprofit organization for fundraising purposes – and ATco would help defray the cost and take care of the “legalities” involved. ATco then sets up or directs the setting up of a “Turf for Muni” entity, as a nonprofit.
Next – Turf for Muni sends out – probably on ATco’s dime - a massive mailing to Muni dwellers and others soliciting tax-deductible contributions - a win-win-win situation: the Muni will get a recreational facility without paying for it, the boosters will get their field, the contributors will get a tax deduction. But - wait - there is a fourth (huge) winner here - ATco. Turf for Muni – instead of paying the accumulated contributions to Muni toward the purchase of a field, it will buy the field and donate it to the Muni. Any guesses as to what company’s artificial turf field will Turf for Muni purchase and donate to the Muni?
The added bonus for ATco here is that it would not have to be subject to Muni’s public procurement process. Would an open procurement process yield a better quality field at a lower cost? After all, the Muni owns the land, the facility is a public facility, and the down-the-road costs of maintenance, repair, security, sanitation and replacement will be borne by the taxpayers. The procurement process serves the public interest – and the protection of that public interest should not be subverted or sacrificed in the name of a “costless” private donation to Muni.
The debate about Parsippany’s Field of Dreams proposal to install artificial turf on two high school fields using Open Space funding has finally reached the public after a year of private discussions between town government, recreation and school officials. There are still many unanswered questions.
The neighbors of the high school fields are worried about increased use of the fields: noise, light, parking, traffic, safety concerns. Many of them bought their houses thinking they would be living next to a school field, not an athletic stadium.
Other citizens are deeply concerned about using Open Space Trust Funds as a source of funding given that the life of the fields (eight -10 years) is shorter than the proposed bonding period (15 years) and that turf replacement costs are not being figured into the totals.
Open Space funding was initially created in 1988 as a way to preserve undeveloped space in a town that was overdeveloped. Open, undeveloped land is an environmental plus and contributes to clean water, clean air and wildlife habitat.
In 2006, voters in Parsippany supported the concept of using the funds to maintain already existing town parks and town-owned historic properties. Although the state open space funds include the word “recreation,” that word was never included in the Parsippany referendum.
So now the town government has decided to add the word “recreation” to the name of the fund, without voter approval, in a new proposed ordinance.
Will this allow the government to use funds collected for specified purposes be used to renovate high school football fields?
What projects will be considered appropriate as we go forward, given this precedent?
Athletic fields are not the same thing as undeveloped open space. Capital improvements to them should be funded some other way. These fields should be the responsibility of the Board of Education, and remain in their exclusive control.
[No. 54] United Kingdom: The Institute of Groundsmanship voices serious concerns about any replacement of natural turf with artificial turf in professional sport. According to an item in Football Trade Directory (19 November 2011):
The Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) today made clear its serious concerns about any replacement of natural turf with artificial turf in professional sport.
IOG Chief Executive Geoff Webb stated: “Grass is the natural surface for our professional sports.It’s what players and fans want.Natural grass – properly maintained to governing body standards - provides the optimum playing surface today.
We recognise the improvements made with artificial playing surfaces, due to better technology.But even bigger strides have been made with grass. The standard of natural turf is a testament to the skill of the many dedicated, forward-thinking and experienced groundsmen; and they are strongly backed by a multi-million pound turf care industry that is the envy of the world.Together, this industry and the world’s best groundsmen are constantly improving and advancing the technologies and techniques needed to enhance playing surfaces.”
The IOG has a number of concerns:
That artificial turf should not be used as an excuse to save on maintenance or, indeed, to replace the need for a groundsman. The high maintenance needs of artificial surfaces must never be under-estimated. These are not ‘all weather surfaces’;
Some sports clubs’ interest in installing artificial surfaces is linked to driving commercial revenues, with real risk to playing quality and customer satisfaction. The emergence of artificial turf at grass roots level is also inextricably linked to significant cut backs and under-investment at a vast majority of pitches, most of which in football are in public sector ownership;
Maintenance is often under-promoted at grass roots level - and suffers from under-investment rather than being viewed as an essential aspect of a club’s budget;
With over 20,000 sites in England alone and an estimated 45,000 pitches, despite the grant funding available there simply is not the budget for a wholesale replacement of natural grass with artificial turf.
The IOG stands by the standards of natural turf pitches at a professional level and the skill of the groundsman in producing top class playing surfaces, which are clear to see every week in various sports.
The UK has the world’s most successful football league and natural turf surfaces combined with advances in technology contribute greatly to its success - as well as to the experience for both players and supporters alike. Any large scale introduction of artificial turf into competition will damage the games and sports we all love in Britain.
The IOG will take its case to the football and rugby authorities. IOG urges all sporting bodies to seriously re-think grounds policy - and place the right emphasis on the regular maintenance of natural turf pitches and grounds - for sport’s sake.
[No. 53] Marion, Mass.: Town yanks school’s permit for street opening from artificial turf field.According to a news report in Sippican Week (9 September 2011), on Friday, September 9, “[t]he Marion Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to rescind Tabor's street opening permit at the request of the Marion Board of Health on Friday at an emergency meeting. Health Director Karen Walega said that TaborAcademy had never provided the drainage calculations for the new drainage system that was installed at the newly constructed artificial turf fields at Hoyt Field. Because the calculations were never provided, the Board of Health now is unsure of whether the drainage could prove a health hazard to the town. Tabor has the street opening permit to install a new drain pipe for the renovated athletic fields. The effluent that runs off from the fields drains directly into SippicanHarbor. The Board of Health has not conducted any recent tests of the runoff to determine what it is composed of or if it is hazardous. They, along with the town counsel, have requested the plans numerous times and have been turned down by Tabor, who responded, according to Town Counsel John Whitten, that until there is a settlement regarding the larger issues surrounding the field, the plans will not be provided.” “Selectmen Roger Blanchette noted that the fields were grass prior to this summer's renovation and that the fields are likely discharging more water now due to the inability of the synthetic turf and compacted crumb rubber and soil underneath to absorb the run off. ‘It’s all compacted stuff, so it doesn't absorb the water like the grass did,’ said Blanchette. ‘The question is what did they put in for filtration?’ Selectman Steven Cushing noted that the additional runoff is a significant change to the amount of water that was previously discharged into the harbor. ‘It’s safe to say they'’e added to it,’ Cushing said. Blanchette said that with the use of crumb rubber to construct the fields, it was imperative that the town know what was in the runoff. There is contention among scientists and governmental agencies about whether or not crumb rubber can prove hazardous to human health. ‘We need to know what they're sending into the harbor with the crumb rubber,’ said Blanchette. The Selectmen voted unanimously to rescind Tabor's street opening permit until the academy provides the board with the drainage plans and calculations and the plans are approved by the Board of Health.” Source: Matt Camara, “Selectmen vote to rescind Tabor permit,” in Sippican Week, 9 September 2011, available at http://sippican.villagesoup.com/news/story/selectmen-vote-to-rescind-tabor-permit/154866
[No. 52] Wayland, Mass.: Wellhead Protection Committee recommends removal of artificial turf field as potential source of contamination of water well. According to a news item in WickedLocal (Wayland, August 4, 2011), on June 30, 2011, the town’s Wellhead Protection Committee submitted its report, consisting of 86-pages and 14 appendices, Wayland’s Board of Public Works. The committee was established in November 2007 by the Board of Water Commissioners with the mission of developing the Wellhead Protection Plan, “covering contamination risks, wellhead protection areas, potential sources of contamination, management strategies, and action plans for all eight of the town’s wells.” Source: Susan L. Wagner, “Work continues on plan to protect Wayland’s water,” on WickedLocal, August 4, 2011, available at http://www.wickedlocal.com/wayland/topstories/x555036773/Working-continues-on-plan-to-protect-Waylands-water#axzz1UOGbhVj0
The members of the WPC included Sherre Greenbaum, Chairperson; Jennifer Riley,Vice Chairperson; Linda Segal,Secretary; Tom Sciacca, Treasurer; Kurt Tramposch, Member; Research and Writing of the Wellhead Protection Plan: Bruce Young, EPA Source Water Protection Specialist, Mass Rural Water Association (MassRWA).
The following are excerpts from Wellhead Protection Plan, PWS ID Number 3315000, Wayland, Massachusetts, June 2011, Prepared by: Wellhead Protection Committee & Bruce W. Young, Source Water Protection Specialist. The full report is available at www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_BComm/WellheadProtection/WellheadProtectionPlan6MB2June2011.pdf and here. The readers are invited to visit the report at pages 28-29 for some sumptuous pictorial depicting the ever-migrating crumb rubber pellets off the field – and who knows whereto – one's drinking water, perhaps?
[Pages 28-29] Happy Hollow Wells PSOC #3-Artificial Turf Field
An artificial turf sports field is built in the Capture Zone of the Happy Hollow Wells (Figure 13). The Capture Zone analysis determined that a portion of the field drains toward the Happy Hollow Wells (Appendix D). A modern artificial field surface has polyethylene plastic blades that simulate grass and a several inch layer of infill that keeps the blades upright. The infill varies by manufacturer and, in Wayland, includes ground-up recycled rubber tires, or crumb rubber.
Synthetic turf fields have established and potential environmental risks. A 2010 study by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection demonstrated that the crumb rubber in artificial turf fields contains chemical carcinogens, neurotoxins, respiratory toxins, and skin and eye irritants. (See Resources Section.) Crumb rubber can migrate from a field (Figures 14 and 15) as well as degrade from weather and microbes, producing new chemicals. A 2007 California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) report summarized 46 studies that identified 49 chemicals released from tire crumbs - seven of which are carcinogenic. (See Resources Section.)
The results of other studies, including those submitted by Gale Associates, the town consultants for the 2007 ConCom [Conservation Commission] hearings on the Wayland High School artificial turf field, indicate that these fields can leach heavy metals, including antimony, arsenic, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, thalium and zinc, into the groundwater through stormwater and irrigation runoff. Some of these contaminants are concentrated when new rubber is exposed to the elements, and others release more toxins through continued use over time. Additionally, the application of paints, paint removers, solvents, adhesives, brighteners, softeners, disinfectants and other potential contaminants are often used for field maintenance, repairs, disinfection, and cleaning.
More testing of the Wayland artificial turf field, particularly of the groundwater flowing between the field and the wells, is needed.
[Page 38] Management Strategies for Potential Sources of Contamination (PSOCs) Happy Hollow Wells Action Plan – No. 4: Replace artificial turf field with natural field
[Page 86] Resources (listed alphabetically)
California OEHHA, “Evaluation of Health Effects of Recycled Waste Tires in Playground and Track Products” (2007): http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/publications/Tires/62206013.pdf
Capital Efficiency Plan, Tata & Howard, April 2009 – located in DPW/Water Division Office Connecticut DEP, “Artificial Turf Study, Leachate and Stormwater Characteristics” (2010): http://www.ct.gov/dep/lib/dep/artificialturf/dep_artificial_turf_report.pdf
Danforth litigation settlement documents and three-page January 19, 2005 press release –
Located in Wayland Selectmen’s Office
EOEA & Water Resources Commission Water Conservation Standards (2006):
At the Montville Township Board of Education meeting on June 28, there was a lengthy discussion regarding installing a new artificial turf field at the high school. The discussion began with the Board considering a special referendum in the fall. It ended with a consensus of the Board to spend $960,000 from the budget approved in April. The discussion in between was a dishonest attempt to fool the audience into believing there would be "no cost to the taxpayers."
At the May BOE meeting, the Board revealed a $1.6 million savings created by switching the health benefits provider for their employees. A Board member suggested using some of the savings to offset the cost of turf. Another Board member suggested funding the entire project with the surplus to avoid holding a referendum.
Several Board members stated the project could be completed with "no cost to the taxpayers." Apparently, the Board believes there is a "Turf Fairy" who deposits money into the district's account at night when we are asleep. The Board members are foolish not to realize it is all money collected from taxpayers.
There were no recommendations from any of Montville's employees. The superintendent did not produce a report from our insurance carrier citing the field as a hazard in need of repair. The high school principal did not produce a list of injuries or complaints from parents citing problems with the field. The athletic director did not produce a report from the conference or coaches within the conference complaining about the field. The business administrator or facility manager did not present a cost-benefit analysis explaining the difference between artificial turf and grass. No one produced records showing maintenance costs over time.
During the discussion, the architect advising the Board appeared to be more of a salesman for artificial turf than an unbiased advisor. He chose to play his part well in the charade. He went so far as to say the Board should not wait until April's school elections to have a referendum vote because all the "good contractors" will commit to other work. He implied the remaining contractors would be inadequate. Therefore, the taxpayers will not have a say regarding the use of their money
Maybe we, the taxpayers, are fools. We elect well-educated, accomplished professionals and expect them to exercise the same judgment with our money as they do in their personal lives. Because we do not attend meetings to express our concerns, a persistent vocal minority dictates what is a responsible use of taxpayer money.
I believe the Board must first present a serious argument proving the benefit of artificial turf before it redirects funds. The budget presented and approved in April did not specify using our tax dollars for turf. The Board must realize there are consequences to their decisions; individually they can be held to account at the polls. Collectively, the decision they make now may affect the approval/ disapproval of their budget for years to come. If you agree, please attend the next Board meeting on July 19.
[No. 50] Moorestown, New Jersey: Town Council raids the Trust Fund. According to the website Moorestown Save Open Space, “Moorestown Town Councilvoted 3 to 2 on April 11, 2011 to fundthe planning, engineering, and design of paved parking lots, lighting, scoreboards, and artificial turf fields by using funds directly from The Municipal Open Space, Recreation, and Farmland Historic Preservation Trust Fund.” The question is whether this appropriation is legal? That depends on a few factors: Did the legislature intend the trust Fund to be used for such a project? If, so where is that intent expressed? Is it in the actual language authorizing expenditures under the statute, or not? If not, then what legislative history – including original drafts, findings, committee reports and alike – is there to support that the like appropriation is allowed? Funds that are funded by taxpayers for specific purpose are usually read and construed strictly – if a statute does not authorize something, then it cannot be inferred that it does so in reference to overbroad categorizations such as if the statute allows for recreation then these amenities are okay because they are for recreation.
According to Moorestown Save Open Space, “when the Moorestown taxpayers voted to establish this fund, it was with the intention that the monies raised would be usedfor the acquisition and preservation of undeveloped lands in town because it is recognized thatwith continued development these undeveloped parcels are a diminishing and valuable resource. […] it was [not] the intention of the voters that this fund should be used for paved parking lots, lighting, scoreboards, and artificial turf fields.Every one dollar taken from the Open Space Trust Fund is equal to a loss of four dollars when combined with state and county matching funds.”
According to a news report in The Philadelphia Inquirer (July 5, 2011), “The debate is a familiar one locally. In 2008, residents sued Evesham when it wanted to use open-space money for an artificial-turf field. A judge ruled in the residents’ favor, so the township built the field without open-space money.” Source: Joelle Farrell, “Moorestown ponders: Is open space athletic fields or peaceful glades?,” in The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 5, 2011, available at http://articles.philly.com/2011-07-05/news/29739226_1_open-space-committee-open-space-athletic-fields .
What is happening in Moorestown happens elsewhere in the country as well. These statutes that often combine recreation, affordable housing, historic preservation and open space acquisition are called by different names – one specie is the legacy fund; another specie – the one in Massachusetts is called the Community Preservation Act. Typically, these accounts are funded by a surcharge on property tax, or direct fees and taxes, which trigger a matching fund by the State. In Massachusetts, while no one was looking a handful of municipalities treated the fund as a general fund and raided it for all sports of projects – including maintenance disguised as capital improvement. The most heated discussions about the misuse of the fund always has involved multimillion-dollar projects for artificial turf fields – especially where the synthetic carpet was to replace an existing recreational natural grass playing field. In Sudbury, Concord, Wellesley, Wayland and a few other places the elected officials raided the fund for this illicit purpose. In Newton, however, on the advice of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue and an activist community not shying away from suing the city – the city legislature decided not to approve funding from the Community Preservation Act and the city then moved to appropriate money from other sources for the project. The stories about Newton, Wellesley and Wayland are found in the various sections of this website: in your Google search box type - Synturf.org [and the name of the town] for hits.
[No. 49] Fairfax County, Virginia: Demographics fuels the un-economical proliferation of artificial turf fields. According to a news report in Fairfax Times (May 6, 2011), “The perennial slugfest over fields -- who pays to build them and who gets to use them -- bubbled up again last week when Gary Falconer, the longtime director of the Virginian Soccer Tournament, complained that he wasn't being given access to enough turf fields to keep his entire 500-team tournament in Fairfax County. As a result, Falconer says, he'll have to move hundreds of games to neighboring Arlington, Prince William and Loudoun counties.” “Whether it's a youth soccer invitational, an adult softball tournament or a weeklong lacrosse camp, park officials in FairfaxCounty understand that the demand for turf fields will always outstrip supply. Fairfax currently has about 800 fields serving more than 300,000 athletes at various levels. Roughly half of the fields are baseball and softball diamonds. The rest are rectangular fields for lacrosse, football and soccer. Some are on school property, others on parkland.” “Of those 800 fields, only 26 are synthetic. More to the point, each of those synthetic fields costs nearly $1 million, and most of them were converted with county money. Although many coaches, athletes and athletic directors dream of synthetic fields on every corner, fiscal realities suggest FairfaxCounty will be lucky to double its current inventory by 2025.” “In fact, keeping up with our current stock might prove challenging. According to Fairfax County Park Authority estimates, the county will need to replace about three of its current fields per year, at a cost of about $400,000 per field, beginning next summer. Last month, Montgomery County, Md., released a report on issues related to athletic field maintenance and concluded turf fields require about $10,000 in annual maintenance while their natural grass counterparts need $25,000. When the $400,000 field replacement costs are factored in, grass is a better fiscal option -- $550,000 ($400,000 replacement plus $100,000 maintenance) per decade as opposed to $250,000 (maintenance).” “So where are we going with all this? Perhaps it's time to view the county's other 774 fields -- the ones with real grass, dirt and divots -- in a different light. Ten years ago, hundreds of thousands of games were played in FairfaxCounty on fields that had to be cut by lawnmowers and watered with sprinklers. Not one lacrosse coach or youth soccer director in Northern Virginia threatened to cancel a game or pull the plug on a tournament because it was being played on real grass.” “Countless youth soccer, baseball and softball tournaments thrived in FairfaxCounty long before turf fields came on the scene. Our hunch is they still can.” Source: “Grass is always greener,” in Fairfax Times, May 6, 2011, available at http://www.fairfaxtimes.com/cms/story.php?id=3421 .
[No. 48] Midlothian, Texas: School district faces premature aging of artificial turf field. According to a news item in The Observer (July 18, 2010), “Here’s what Midlothian ISD reported on their Web site: Football Fields To Get Turf Upgrade. Posted: 7/15/10. FieldTurf acknowledge that two MISD fields with artificial turf (Multipurpose Stadium and HS practice field) had issues involving premature wear. The district was offered two options: (1) replace the two fields with the same product and no extended warranty dates, or (2) an upgraded product and full, 8-year warranties at 1/10 (approximately) the cost. The district chose the upgrade so that MISD will have two brand new upgraded fields with full 8-year warranties at a substantially discounted price.” The comment following the post stated, “Random Voice says: July 20, 2010 at 7:32 pm . So, FieldTurf admits thier product wears out prematurely, so we give them $16,000 to install another product? Ridiculous. I wonder how many people will even remeber this when the come to us in November with another overinflated bond. HS#2, Phase I, Expansion of FS, and another Elem. school.” Source: Posted by admin, “Midlothian’s $14 Million Football Stadium Undergoes Turf Repair,” in The Observer (Ellis County), July 18, 2010, available at http://www.elliscountyobserver.com/?p=15127
The Board went into closed session under Texas Government Code 551.071 for
consultation with the District’s Attorney, to consider potential litigation or settlement concerning artificial turf. The Board approved to accept the second option of the settlement offer for the artificial turf on both the MHS practice field and multi-purpose stadium with a 6-1 vote.
Select Competitive Purchasing Method for Artificial Turf: The Board approved the purchase of two FieldTurf Duraspine Pro artificial turf playing surfaces, services, and all other necessary products and services from the sole source method with a vote of 6-1.
Purchase of Artificial Turf: The Board approved the authorization for the superintendent to purchase two Duraspine Pro artificial turf fields for the replacement of the fields at the MISD Stadium and MHS practice fields with a 6-1 vote.
Interestingly, in the foregoing, one wonders about the utility of an action/decision item like “Select Competitive Purchasing Method” when the supplier of the field is the same outfit that installed the first one. This is more like single source procurement and the industry is effectuating this form of tie-in by offering to replace an existing installation prematurely, before the warranty runs out. This denies the school districts and other buyers of the artificial turf systems to allow themselves the luxury of acquiring less expensive and qualitatively superior products, including those that do not use crumb rubber infill.
In researching this story, SynTurf.org also came upon a rather disturbing bit of information that points to the possibility of undue influence by a school administrator in the procurement process. The case involves one Randy Bullock, who served as Midlothian ISD Athletic Director from January 2006 to July 2008. According to an MISD news release, dated July 29, 2008, Bullock has now “accepted a position with FieldTurf Tarkett as the North Texas Sales Director.” Source: “Steve Keasler Named MISD Athletic Director,” News Release: 7/29/08, available at http://www.midlothian-isd.net/_misdnews/archive/keasler.html . What was Bullock’s role in the initial procurement of the artificial turf field at MISD? What was Bullock’s role in selling the replacement program to the MISD in 2010?
[No. 47] Quebec, Canada: Inquiry unveils bid-rigging in artificial turf industry. On Thursday, November 18, 2010, the program Enquête (Inquiry) of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)-TV (8:00 PM) aired a piece called “La concurrence au tapis,” meaning “competition to the mat” (read: Competition for synthetic surfaces). The piece is available at http://www.radio-canada.ca/emissions/enquete/2010-2011/Reportage.asp?idDoc=125013 (with video-link to broadcast); the text of the English translation of the program’s teaser is reported below; for it in the original French click here.
Last June, a team from Enquête unveiled practices that tend to restrain competition in the market for artificial turf sports fields. But that is not all. In 2006, a generous grant program was established in order to promote sports by improving the infrastructure, including the installation of artificial turf for soccer and football. But why is it that small municipalities, colleges and other institutions are installing carpets worthy of the teams in the European first division or the National Football League? Why some have paid as much as 40% more for the same carpet [synthetic surface] than in Canada or the United States? Why have municipalities and colleges invested twice as much for their new surface than LavalUniversity, whose football program is the object of envy from coast to coast? The taxpayers of Quebec have lost a considerable amount of money in the process.”
Inquiry laid out a simple thesis - There is a collusive arrangement among the sports field “consultants,” producers of synthetic turf, and the procuring entity, typically the city councils – such that independent producers/installers of synthetic turf in Quebec find themselves shut out of bidding arrangements. While not named, the big producer of synthetic turf -- Tarkett/Field Turf is prominently featured in the background of the report.
The report features two suppliers of synthetic surfaces, Luc Rochon of Groupe Team Rochon (GTR Turf) and Paul Caron.
Reporter: “One can say that business is going well for FieldTurf. Its synthetic surfaces - invented by Quebeckers around the year 2,000 - revolutionized the industry at the time. Field Turf has created a solid reputation in Quebec with fields like that of the Diablos of Trois-Rivières. The installer was Luc Rochon.”
Reporter: “FieldTurf now belongs to foreign owners and Luc Rochon has founded his own company. He sells and installs a competitive product in the market. With success moreover – in Ontario and the United States.”
Reporter: “Rochon is one of those who is competing in the synthetic fiields market in Quebec. For months he tries to penetrate the market, without success.”
Reporter: “If he is not able to offer a bid it is because there is often little or no place for free competition.”
Reporter: “It could be said that some teams have a greater chance to score than others. By the middle of this year, FieldTurf received 20 of the 34 synthetic field projects in Quebec. And obviously and clearly – in certain cases – the terms of the game were arranged ahead of time. Sainte-Julie, for example, in the area of the Montéregie, put forth an offer oftender for bids in the spring. Paul Caron – another important supplier – was the winner.”
Paul Caron: “We put in a bid, we put in the lowest bid. It was decided to cancel the bidding, and to put the offers out to tender again and then they put the specific name of the product in the call for tenders, so at that point one knows one is not wanted.”
Reporter: “Sainte-Julie demanded a single product, that is FieldTurf. It is against the rules in a public tender. The city had to step back, faced with the threat of a lawsuit.”
The highlighted portion of a new bid document, dated June 18, 2010, is seen to read: “The entrepreneur must put in place a synthetic cover of the type DUOFTHS-15QC…Prestige M-50 USA-1 of the company FieldTurfTarkett or MondoTurf Classic M-MF-4560 DL Star of the company Mondo.”
The report relates that one form of product selection is pegged to the requirement that it be FIFA 2 star, even though FIFA itself recommends FIFA 1 star for municipal fields, where durability is more of an objective.
Luc Rochon: “It is a way of eliminating – if you will – a whole bunch of bidders.”
Reporter: “The answer is found in the specifications. By requiring a number of FIFA 2 already installed in Quebec, it is as much as to say that there are a number of suppliers such as Mr. Rochon who are out of the game.”
Luc Rochon: “All the manufacturers in that world – I am speaking of the major players in the industry – they are all FIFA. Except they are not made in Quebec.”
Reporter: “Another means for pushing aside competition is specifications - by demanding a certain type of insurance or very specific technical details.”
The highlighted part of a copy of the insurance certificate covering the guarantee – calls for height of the fiber …63 mm [2.5 inches].
Reporter: “In this industry, the specifications are prepared by a number of companies – of which, Pluritec is the specialist – which has business ties with FieldTurf. Together they have done several hundred projects, including the Beijing Olympic Games. It is at Pluritec – where we were granted a phone interview – that it is not hidden that there is a preference in favor of FieldTurf.”
François Ricard of Pluritec [over the phone): “Our clients want top of the line, we give top of the line. People can criticize our way of going about things, but our way of doing things is that we are the leaders in Quebec. We are not ashamed of what we have left behind us. Now, is that at the cost of a certain rigidity? Possibly.”
Reporter: “But the cost precisely – it is the taxpayer who pays the favorite, FieldTurf, whichis sold for $65 per square meter and sometimes for more. In Vancouver, where labor costs are comparable, but the competition is larger, we found it 40% less expensive. The same thing in the United States, as is shown on the website of the company.”
Reporter: “The Quebec taxpayers, then, pay between $100,000and $200,000 more for the same surface.”
Reporter: “What if I were to tell you that there are cities that have paid more than $80 per square meter for synthetic turf?”
Larry Eldridge (consultant of synthetic surfaces, laughing): “What have they put in it?”
Reporter introduces Larry Eldridge, as a consultant with 35 years of experience, who planned all the fields at the University of Laval. He favors competition among the suppliers, which is what allowed Laval to pay less than $40 per square meter. That is some 40% less than a number of community colleges had paid on the advise of Pluritec.
establish the price that you want. If you are three or four, it is a competition.
Reporter: “The practices of Pluritec right now are the subject of an investigation on the part of the Order of Engineers and Order of Technologists. The complaints have specifically to do with the tendering and bidding process.But who is the referee in this story? Who makes sure that the millions of dollars of public money are invested according to respect for rules of the game?”
Donald Riendeau, lawyer specializing in ethics: “According to the law our elected municipal officials have a very clear responsibility under Quebec’s civil code to act with prudence and due diligence.”
Reporter: “Donald Riendeau is a lawyer specializing in legal ethics. He says that directed [wired, rigged, piped] offers of tender are common currency in Quebec.”
Donald Riendeau: “When one speaks of trumped up calls for tender or directed ones sometimes that saves time and that makes it possible perhaps to give the contract to people in whom one has confidence in a municipality but for most of the time this is a losing proposition because it does not allow one to have the most innovative solutions, the best costs, and over the long term this undermines the trust of the public.”
Reporter: “At the opening of bid submissions in Sainte-Julie FieldTurf finally won out, but the city refused to tell us at what price.”
Denis Charland (Ministry of Education, Leisure, and Sport) “According to the actual analysis that I did of the files, in a general sense, I have no indication at this time that the rules were not respected. When we receive a request to make an analysis of an authorization, we make sure that the offer of tenders are public, that they are published as is, so that fairness is served … “
Reporter: “If indeed the process does follow the rules, our research has nonetheless found about ten bidding tenders that were directed or limited.”
Luc Rochon: “We aren’t in the Wild West, we are still in Quebec and listen, we vote and the cities have councilors and those people have the duty as councilors not to direct a bidding tender…”
Reporter: “The battle of Luc Rochon upsets people…We taped this exchange between him and an entrepreneur during a visit to a site.”
Obscured man to Luc Rochon: “That’s the way it goes at the moment. You probably have reason to fight. But look: if you take the telephone and call 1-800-Marteau [the hotline for Operation Hammer, a police unit investigating construction fraud] and denounce the situation, then when you go to make a presentation to the city - you know the world is small – they will know that you have stirred up shit and they won’t even listen to you - even if you are completely right.”
Luc Rochon: “OK…I agree with you completely.”
Reporter: We have discovered that directed tenders for bids are not the only dubious practices in this domain.”
Program Announcer: “After our break – the dubious methods to get rid of competition.”
Reporter: “Denis Paquette also tried to get himself part of the synthetic market and he quickly ran up against directed bidding tenders.”
Denis Paquette: “I tried to make sales – but it did not work. So, up to today you could say I am on the sideline.”
Reporter: “He could not even submit a bid in his own town of Mount Tremblant. He denounces the practices of certain players in the industry.”
Denis Paquette: “One speaks of bribes, of envelopes, of suitcases, of money going around - in parallel.”
Report: “How can you be sure?”
Denis Paquette: “I have already negotiated myself in the past understandings for certain contracts…I negotiated the whole deal.”
Reporter: “You are speaking of an envelope.”
Denis Paquette: “Yes, we are talking more of a suitcase rather than an envelope, at that size it does not go in an envelope.”
Reporter: “How much money is one speaking of?”
Denis Paquette: “25,000 dollars.”
Reporter: “The practice of bribes still exists according to several of our sources. Pressure is also put sometimes on clients. This one tells us - under protection of confidentiality out of fear of reprisal …”
Anonymous (altered voice on the phone): “During the process of the offer of tenders there was one who made so many offers that I change the criteria, the specifications; I had to intervene very forcefully.”
Reporter: “That would have limited the competition?”
Anonymous (altered voice on the phone): Certainly. He wanted to know about the other bids. He wanted to know the points that were awarded to each bid so that he could better them.
Reporter: “Last June we broadcast a first broadcast report about irregularities in the bidding process. That report made waves. First, Field Turf admitted the practice of directed bids and said that it was a victim [of the practice] also.”
John Bélanger (FieldTurf spokeperson – June 2010): “I think that there are bid tenders that in all cases that are directed towards a particular product.”
Reporter: (in interview) “If the choices are sometimes made ahead of time that is because certain suppliers lobby before the public call to tender.”
Reporter (in interview): “When we buy a product with money coming from taxpayers do you think it is healthy that the competition is not visible at the level ofthe offer of submissions?”
John Bélanger: “I think that the competition does take place; it is something that we honestly believe takes place before the call for tenders.”
Donald Reindeau: “I am not reassured by such a proposition. And I do not think that citizens will be reassured. The first point is that – yes – there is certainly work that takes place upstream from the call for tenders, you can never stop it, but it should not take place at that stage.”
Reporter: “If the game does take place at this stage, it is also because the Ministry of Education, which has committed $90 million of subsidies to these projects, has not laid out precise rules about the choice of synthetic surfaces.”
Denis Charland (Ministry of Education, Leisure, and Sport): “About the choice of the equipment we do not have any rules at all.”
Reporter: According to Larry Eldridge [consultant of synthetic surfaces] the Ministry has lacked vigilance before distributing it millions. It has not put into question the role of the consulting firms and of engineering firms that prepare the specifications.”
Larry Eldridge: “For myself, I ask: Do you need an engineering firm to make the base of a field? Because there is not a huge amount of work of engineering in these fields. If there were problems, I would be the first to ask for a specialist.”
Reporter: “Following our revelations changes have taken place in the specifications. We have seen the restrictions regarding the FIFA criteria disappear, the disappearance of required [types] of insurance, and certain demands for certain technical requirements.”
Luc Rochon: “We are seeing now that at the opening of some bids there are at least three competitors, and we have seen that it has come about after the reporting by [Enquête].
Reporter: “The day after our interview with the firm Pluritec, Luc Rochon won the first of thee contracts but he has continued with his decision to denounce practices of the industry.”
Luc Rochon: “I have installed in the biggest stadiums, I worked with the largest company that does 3 billion dollars worth of business per year – they do not want to meet with me..
Reporter: “Still today?”
Luc Rochon: “Yes.”
Reporter: “Another consequence … The prices have plunged.”
Luc Rochon: Me, I would say it has gone done $20 per square meter since the beginning of the season.
Reporter: ”As much as that?”
Rochon: “Yes, yes.”
Reporter: “But the game is over. The [artificial turf field] subsidy program is coming to an end. If there have been players at fault the Ministry foresees that it can stop subsidies or demand refunds.”
Denis Charland (Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sports): “It bothers me, because the applicants for the subsidies must respect the laws and the regulations. Here there are regulations that have not been respected, so we have to act in terms of the intentions of the Minister regarding those projects, that is clear.”
Reporter: “If the Ministry decides to punish, it will be the cities and the schools which will be targeted for not having respected the rules of the game. And it is again
the taxpayers who will have to make up the shortfall.”
[No. 46] Lost in the Bronx! Common sense is supposed to be common, pervasive and yet it is often a rarity among our more privileged members of society when they willingly place their children at potential risk of harm. I am specifically talking about The Horace Mann School in the Riverdale section of the Bronx which, given its administration’s penny-wise and pound-foolishness, might as well be located in Yonkers!
According to a news feature in The Horace Mann Record (October 5, 2007), over the summer of 2006 the school rolled out its artificial turf field in order to “avoid the traditional issues of maintenance of a grass field and help athletes avoid injury.” But soon “The department has discovered, however, that the turf poses its own risks including the potential for infections and bacterial growth, according to Athletic Trainer Amy Mojica. In response to these concerns, the athletic staff has raised awareness among coaches and players of teams that use the turf.” The school also found out that turf can be unforgiving: “The turf has caused few lasting wounds. In a particularly grueling field hockey practice, Hanna Lee (10) tripped several times on Four Acres, skinning her knee multiple times.” And the Football Coach Daniel Hannon “received a large scrape on Four Acres during a Middle Division football practice a week ago.” “Although students have avoided infection, they are still susceptible to injuries. ‘Turf toe,’ a condition consisting of a spread of injuries related to artificial turf has come into the lexicon, ranging from mild sprains to damaged cartilage to serious fractures. The condition arises as a result of pounding on the hardness of the turf, according to the book Foot and Ankle.” “Players have noticed an increase of injury, possibly due to practicing on the turf field. ‘I know a lot of us have shin splints,’ said Ashley Feldman (10), a Varsity Field Hockey player.” “In addition to more well-documented ailments associated with artificial turf, several recent studies point to potential health risks with the tiny black rubber crumbs that provide the ‘in-fill’ for the field.” “The crumbs are made from recycled car tires that have been ground up to form pieces a fraction the size of a piece of rice. The potential health risk comes from metals and other carcinogens in the rubber, according to a report released by Environment and Human Health, Inc, a North Haven, CT-based public health advocacy group that focuses on environmental threats.” Source: Ben Mishkin, “Turf Fields: For Better or Worse?,” in The Horace Mann Record (The Horace Mann School, Bronx, NY, October 5, 2007), available at http://record.horacemann.org/nlarticle.php?id=1260 and here .
SynTurf.org Note: As a very wise and knowing reader of this site once remarked, “The question is not whether real grass is good enough for our kids. It’s whether we think our kids are worth real grass.” Not in the Bronx, apparently! Maybe, it is time to also consider the implications of an inextricably lodged nanoparticle of carbon black in the lungs of the children whose parent go out of their way to protect them from other scourges of modern life. For a brief on the risk posed by carbon black nanoparticles that may reside in the artificial turf fields, see http://www.synturf.org/crumbrubber.html (Item No. 29).
[No. 45] KCBS’s video broadcast of The Green Beat on artificial turf is on You Tube. One of the perils of managing a site like this is that often the links become stale, or extinct or moved to some other page on a website that originally carried a story. One such example is The Green Beat report on artificial turf that aired in the San Francisco market on November 5-6, 2009. At the time, SynTurf.org reported on it:
According to a news report on San Francisco’s CBS-TV (Channel 5) (November 5-6, 2009), the “state study of artificial turf athletic fields may be flawed…. The study by the Department of Health Hazard Assessment, due to be released next summer, will not include tests during hot weather, exactly when the state would prefer the tests be conducted…. In a Green Beat investigational report, the state's lead scientist blamed the state's budget crisis. Dr. Charles Vidair told CBS 5 that his department couldn’t hire contractors in time to conduct airborne tests during the hot summer months. Yet Vidair admitted that the results would be limited. ‘Of course, unless we measure under these different temperatures, we will never know the exact relationship between temperature and volatilization of chemicals,’ he said. State Senator Abel Maldonado (R) called the study ‘unacceptable.’ Maldonado authored the bill which called for the research study.
‘We don’t know what the impacts (of heat) are at that time and if the study isn't going to demonstrate that, then we have an incomplete study,’ Maldonado told CBS 5.” http://www.synturf.org/process.html (Item No. 35: The California turf study sidestepstesting in hot weather!).
[No. 44] New York City: City Limits unearths the dirt about city’s artificial turf program. Patrick Arden is a familiar source of news reports about the artificial turf program in and around New York City. Many of his stories on the subject have been the source of reports on this site. He is currently a contributor and writer at City Limits Magazine. Arden covered City Hall for the daily newspaper MetroNew York. For nearly a decade he was the managing editor of the Chicago Reader, a pioneer of the alternative newsweekly movement. He also served as editor-in-chief of the statewide newsweekly Illinois Times, a winner of a “general excellence” award from the Illinois Press Association. He is currently at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University.
City Limits Magazine ( http://www.citylimits.org ) is a bi-monthly investigative journalism publication on city-wide civic issues. It employs the power of investigative journalism to explore public policy and the tools of new media to uncover aspects of our city that undermine the quality of life of New Yorkers.
The following piece is the preface to a larger body of work by Patrick Alden called “A Risky Play,” which asks the question: Was New York City’s Shift to Artificial Grass a 300- Million-Dollar Mistake? They are both published in City Limits Magazine, Vol. 34, No. 4 (September/October 2010 – out on August 24, 20101).
NYC’s Fake Grass Gamble: A $300M Mistake? Available at
Soccer players shout at midfield, but not about their game: The field is falling apart. “It’s been like this for five years,” complains Israel Arreola, as he points to the open seams, torn patches and wavy folds in the artificial turf at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Referees for public school league games already boycott two artificial-turf fields there, citing fears of liability. “This is bad: holes everywhere,” says Arreola, a Manhattan sous-chef who plays in a weekend league.
“Somebody’s going to get hurt.” Over the past 12 years New York City has borrowed an estimated $300 million to put 204 artificial-turf fields at parks, schools and playgrounds. An additional 52 fields are on the drawing board.
The reasons behind this buying binge have been many, ranging from the battle against obesity to an alleged cost savings on field maintenance. Artificial turf is part of PlaNYC, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's blueprint for an environmentally friendly future. Yet a City Limits investigation has found that overuse and chronic neglect has run turf ragged years ahead of schedule; price comparisons generally favor natural grass, even in the long term; and the health risks of turf—largely dismissed by the city after the destruction of one artificial field for high lead levels in late 2008—are much broader and deeper than previously reported.
After years of rejecting health concerns, the city recently agreed to switch materials and to set up new protocols for testing artificial turf, but the backroom negotiations that brought these concessions actually kept more threatening information from seeing the light of day. It’s not clear that the new testing regime will eliminate the health risks, and the issues of cost and durability have not been addressed.
Documents we've obtained indicate that the city's regimen for testing the fields to make sure they don't contain dangerous levels of chemicals is not as rigorous as the public has been told. If new federal standards for lead were applied to turf fields in city parks, several would be forced to shut down.
Relentlessly pitched as a financial boon, plastic grass has turned into a pricey time bomb. As more fields hit the end of their useful lives, the city faces the prospect—and increased expense—of reconstructing them.
The price of new turf fields to replace the current, damaged ones is rising. And installing a new turf field requires the expensive task of disposing off the old one—meaning the shift to turf may have been a costly gamble.
In a random survey of 56 artificial fields this summer, City Limits discovered 25, or 46 percent, in serious state of disrepair, with gaps, tears and holes forming obvious trip hazards. At least 14 fields had minor damage, but without fixes, their defects are sure to grow worse.
How did an administration that prides itself on financial acumen dive headlong into a heavy investment in an untested material? And why has it remained steadfastly committed to buying more artificial turf?
The answers lie in the story of how New York City became the world’s biggest buyer of fake grass.
Our September/October issue, A Risky Play, tells the story.
A Risky Play. This is a six-part exposé by Patrick Arden and each piece has a publication date of August 24, 2010.
As Arden explained in an e-mail to SynTurf.org,the article collects a lot of reporting, freedom of information law requests and four years’ worth of reporting for his former beat at Metro. “Most people want to talk about the durability issue,” he wrote, “but there is a nice backroom politics story in the middle of this that I wish would get more attention.” For example the article points up the negotiations that led to the testing of artificial turf fields for lead. After the City was forced to destroy one field for high lead levels -- a field that cost $1.4 million just five years before -- it drastically watered down the methodology for testing the 100+ remaining fields, adopting procedures that could obscure problems. The City's interpretation of the early tests was already problematic, and right before it released that famous “literature review” it received a letter from some top-flight doctors saying that the report shouldn’t be released because it was an embarrassment. As the doctors did a fine job of laying out the health concerns, at one point, the City backed down behind-the-scenes and was going to allow two pioneers of crumb rubber tests to do more tests, and then officials tried their best to discredit the two scientists.
The following is the reproduction of what is available on the net from this publication on each of the six parts:
In 1998, New York City began installing synthetic turf fields in parks and playgrounds, saying the artificial material would be more durable than grass. But a City Limits investigation finds that many turf fields are falling apart. How did an administration that prides itself on financial acumen dive headlong into a heavy investment in an untested material? And why has it remained steadfastly committed to buying more artificial turf? The answers lie in the story of how New York City became the world’s biggest buyer of fake grass.
1. The Ground Game: Signs of Deterioration in the City’s Parks
3. The City on Defense: Dismissing Questions About Health
http://www.citylimits.org/news/articles/4161/the-city-on-defense-dismissing-questions-about-health . Back in the spring of 2002, as New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe was extolling the benefits of synthetic turf, a study by professors at BrighamYoungUniversity in faraway Utah told a different story. On a warm day in June, two professors from BrighamYoungUniversity in Utah monitored synthetic turf fields installed on the university's campus from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. and discovered the synthetic turf's rubber and plastic absorbed more of the sun's heat than the grass did.
4. It Won’t Taste Great: The Health Questions Multiply
http://www.citylimits.org/news/articles/4162/it-won-t-taste-great-the-health-questions-multiply . While the city maintains that synthetic turf encourages exercise, many health questions on its effects remain. In December 2007, nearly a decade after the city put its first artificial field in a park, the City Council held its first hearing on the use of artificial turf. Benepe showed up to testify, accompanied by Nancy Clark, parks' capital projects boss Amy Freitag and Celia Petersen, the Parks Departments head of specifications and estimates.
5. A Test for Testing: New Products, New Rules
http://www.citylimits.org/news/articles/4163/a-test-for-testing-new-products-new-rules . In the absence of federal guidelines for acceptable lead levels in artificial turf fields, and after repeated assertions to the fields safety, the city quietly began testing for lead on the city's fields in 2008.Just weeks before the release of the literature review, New Jersey shut down two artificial turf fields in Hoboken and Ewing due to high lead levels. Lead is known not only to harm children's health but but also to inhibit their neurological development.
6. A Swing and a Hit: An Alternative at the Ballpark
http://www.citylimits.org/news/articles/4164/a-swing-and-a-hit-an-alternative-at-the-ballpark . While the city cuts the manpower needed to maintain natural grass fields and avoids paying benefits to workers, future generations are saddled with the debt of expensive synthetic turf installation. Instead of allocating the necessary expense dollars for day-to-day operations in city parks, New York City has decided to borrow capital funds to rebuild. Parks advocate Geoffrey Croft calls this “the constant recapitalization of parks,” using a phrase he picked up from Central Park Conservancy founder Betsy Barlow Rogers. “It’s a vicious cycle.”
[No. 43] Westport, Connecticut: Who’s minding the toxic runoff from the plastic and crumb rubber fields? According to a news report in the Westport News (August 10, 2010), “Heavy metals in the chemical make-up of the synthetic turf fields in Westport could be leaching into the town’s surface waters, possibly posing a threat to aquatic life. However, there is no system in place for measuring chemical toxicity in stormwater runoff from those fields. The town has been alerted to the possibility of that toxic threat in the release late last month of a 19-month, multi-agency state study of the safety of four such fields at different locations in Connecticut.” Specifically, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) concluded that “there is a potential risk to surface waters and aquatic organisms associated with the toxicity of stormwater runoff from artificial turf fields.”
The WestportParks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy said “the fields were designed with ‘retention structures’ to prevent rubber granules, which provide impact-cushioning for the players, from draining off the fields.” But, “We have no involvement in the monitoring of water,” McCarthy told the News.
According to the news report, “[a]ccording to the environmental report in the state study, three of the eight samples of stormwater, taken from points where the runoff could come only from the fields, had acute levels of metal concentration, but only in zinc on a consistent basis. ‘Metal concentrations in excess of the acute aquatic life criteria for more than one hour could cause mortality in the more sensitive organisms in the receiving surface waters,’ the report states, indicating that it would be the acute criteria that would be most relevant for monitoring the intermittent impact of stormwater on the turf fields At the same time, the samples were found to have levels of copper, barium, iron, aluminum and vanadium, which exceed the state’s “chronic aquatic life criteria” that go beyond the acute criteria applied to stormwater. ‘Average metal concentrations which exceed the chronic life criteria for more than four days are expected to impact the ability of organisms to survive, reproduce or grow,’ the report states, adding that this would likely not apply to stormwater runoff.”
[No. 42] St. Charles, Missouri: Screwed up priorities: Fake grass fields ahead of academics.According to a news story on Fox-TV (Channel 2 St. Louis – July 14, 2002), “St. Charles parents and kids scrambled to find summer camps because the school district couldn't afford summer school, but they could afford new artificial turf. Parents and kids in St. Charles had to figure out new activities for summer when summer school was canceled. Money expected from the state didn’t materialize, but canceling summer school came on the heels of the school board’s decision to buy artificial turf for the two high schools. The artificial turf cost you $1,000,000. The district pulled money from various places to pay on the bonds for the turf, like money normally budgeted for band activities.
[No. 41] New York City tightens the rules on artificial turf; sets up advisory committee. According to a new report in The New York Times (June 3, 2010), “This week, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signed a bill that requires the parks and health departments to work together in ensuring a thorough review of materials going into future playing fields. The new law also establishes a nine-member advisory committee, appointed by the mayor and the City Council speaker, which will review the type of material proposed for any playing field and make suggestions for alternate materials. Its recommendations will be nonbinding but will be posted online.” “Melissa Mark-Viverito, the city councilwoman who heads its parks and recreation committee, said the bill was prompted by problems like the temporary shutdown of the soccer field at Thomas Jefferson Field in East Harlem last year because of elevated lead levels.” “But Geoffrey Croft, a longtime critic of artificial turf as head of the watchdog group NYC Park Advocates, said the health, safety and environmental concerns raised by the materials — and the 150-degree temperatures they can produce by soaking up sunlight and emitting heat on a warm day — make the new law long overdue.” “He noted that the law stops short of requiring the evaluation of the more than 130 synthetic fields already in place around the city or the crumb rubber infill that is used in them. It also leaves it up to city officials to come up with credible advisory committee members.” “But he called it a step in the right direction. “It will shed some light on future products,” he said. “This should have been done a decade ago, before the city exposed the public to these various dangers.” Source: Mireya Navarro, “City Tightens Rules on Artificial Turf” in The New York Times (GrreenBlogs, June 3, 2010), available at http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/03/city-tightens-rules-on-artificial-turf/
[No. 40] Haeundae, South Korea: Allegation of receiving bribe from turf company may have driven principal to suicide. According to a news item in the Joong Ang Daily (March 20, 2010), “A middle school principal who had been under police investigation for allegedly accepting bribes from a company bidding to install artificial turf on a school playground apparently poisoned himself to death Thursday [March 18].” A middle school principal in Haeundae (Busan), Mr. Seuong was under investigation by the Busan Metropolitan Police Agency for receiving in July 2007 some 20 million won ($17,680) “in return for selecting a company to lay down artificial turf on a school playground.” According to an un-named police source, “The principal might have killed himself due to the mental pressure he suffered as the investigation was about to begin.” Source: Lee Min-yong, “Busan principal found dead amid bribery investigation,” in Joong Ang Daily, March 20, 2010, available at http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2918094 .
[No. 39] Teaneck, New Jersey: Drainage Study – A Trojan horse bearing turf. According to a news story in Teaneck Suburbanite (March 4, 2010), “At the Feb. 22 council meeting, Kenneth Hoffman, representing Teaneck Youth Soccer, urged the council to approve the study of what he called ‘Teaneck’s natural quagmire.’ Hoffman said that the drainage problem in the park must be solved before proposals to install artificial turf on the soccer field can be considered.” The town council “is considering authorizing a private engineering firm to conduct a drainage study of VoteePark. The cost of the study is estimated at $20,000 and would be paid for by Municipal Open Space Trust (MOST) funds.” According to Harry Kissileff, chair of the township environmental commission, who has questioned the cost effectiveness of the project, “There are a number of environmental unknowns,” and the cost of “installation of artificial turf, would exceed $2 million.” “It is not clear how many people will benefit from this project,” Kissileff said, noting that the artificial turf would become obsolete in 10 years.” Source: Howard Prosnitz, “Drainage study to plug field problems in Teaneck,” in Teaneck Suburbanite, March 4, 2010, available at http://www.northjersey.com/news/86303922_Drainage_study_to_plug_field_problems.html .
In SynTurf.org’s opinion, Hoffman will be back a while later to announce that artificial turf is the only way to go here. He can do that because the council is already bent in that direction. Here are some choice lines from the comments reported by the Suburbanite:
Hoffman: “After a heavy rainfall, the soccer field cannot be used for several days. We need an expert to investigate the drainage problem and determine how much it will cost to fix. Once the information is gathered and made known we can have further discussions about what to do about the surface of the field. No matter what we put on top of the field, it is not going to work unless we solve the drainage problem.”
George Reskakis (chair of the township’s parks, playgrounds and recreation advisory board and a professional soccer referee, called the VoteePark field, “Truly an embarrassment. There is no doubt in my mind that we have the worst soccer facility in the county.”
Councilman Adam Gussen (who played youth football on VoteePark fields) called them unsafe and unprotected. “The drainage issue creates an uneven and muddy surface and ultimately limits the number of hours that the fields can be used.”
Mayor Kevie Feit commented that “the council is not committed to artificial turf but is currently only discussing the drainage problem.”
[No. 38] San Francisco, California: Environmentalists to Planning Department, “Conduct environmental review of artificial turf project at Golden GatePark.” According to a news story in the San Francisco Chronicle (March 11, 2010, page C-1),“San Francisco's Planning Department is considering an appeal from bird lovers to scratch plans to install artificial turf and lights on four soccer fields, a 7-acre swath the Audubon Society calls a crucial habitat for birds and other critters.” “Thousands of songbirds, raptors and shorebirds gather or migrate through the western edge of Golden GatePark, which is relatively wild and offers plenty of dining options for wildlife.” The turf fields will be lighted so as to expand even more the playing time on the plastic surface. “Lights are confusing for birds, however, causing migrating flocks to lose their way or fly into the light source, particularly in the fog.” The Planning Department is expected to respond within a month. If it denies the Audubon Society's request, the group said it would appeal to the Board of Supervisors and if that fails, possibly sue.” Source: Carolyn Jones, “Bird lovers fight Golden Gate Park turf plan,” in San Francisco Chronicle, Match 11, 2010, available athttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/03/10/BA0Q1CDTU6.DTL .
[No. 37] Glen Ellyn, Illinois: Flawed procurement process increases turf cost. In November 2006 the residents approved $7.4 million for a new sports facility (AckermanSports & FitnessCenter), complete with batting cages, new fitness equipment, indoor soccer fields and basketball courts. The current price tag: a whopping $11.2 million, 51% more than the taxpayer had approved. The blame goes to deficiencies in the bidding process. According to a news item in the Chicago Daily Herald (January 21, 2010), for example, when it came to the artificial turf field, “a limestone base for the soccer field’s artificial turf, were omitted. A year later, officials had to approve a change order for the work.” For more on the story, or how not to (mis)manage a municipal procurement process, see Marco Santana, “Glen Ellyn sports complex stunning ... and stunningly over budget Cost rose taxpayer-approved $7.4 million to final $11.2 million,” in Chicago Daily Herald, January 21, 2010, available at http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=352766 .
[No. 36] Connecticut AG to rubber mulch maker: Show the basis of your claims of safety and non toxicity.On November 30, 2009, Connecticut’s Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, fired a letter to Rubbermulch.com of Lakewood, New Jersey, asking the vendor/marketer of rubber mulch for use on playgrounds to back up its assertion that its product is made form 100% recycledcrap tires and that it is non-toxic. Citing the existence of some controversy in the scientific community as to the safety and toxicity of recycled tire crumb, “I request that youforward to me any studies that upon which you have reliedin representing that your product is non-toxic,” Blumenthal asked. For a copy of the AG’s letter, click here.
[No. 35] The California turf study sidesteps testing in hot weather! In May 2008, California passed a legislation that required that by September 1, 2010, the state’s Integrated Waste Management Board, in consultation with the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and the State Department of Public Health, prepare and provide to the legislature a study that compares the effects of synthetic turf and natural turf on the environment and the public health. For details about the passage of the Maldonado Bill, see http://www.synturf.org/wrapuparticles.html (Item No. 6: This is not Sweden).
According to a news report on San Francisco’s CBS-TV (Channel 5) (November 5-6, 2009), the “state study of artificial turf athletic fields may be flawed…. The study by the Department of Health Hazard Assessment, due to be released next summer, will not include tests during hot weather, exactly when the state would prefer the tests be conducted…. In a Green Beat investigational report, the state's lead scientist blamed the state's budget crisis. Dr. Charles Vidair told CBS 5 that his department couldn’t hire contractors in time to conduct airborne tests during the hot summer months. Yet Vidair admitted that the results would be limited. ‘Of course, unless we measure under these different temperatures, we will never know the exact relationship between temperature and volatilization of chemicals,’ he said. State Senator Abel Maldonado (R) called the study ‘unacceptable.’ Maldonado authored the bill which called for the research study.
‘We don’t know what the impacts (of heat) are at that time and if the study isn't going to demonstrate that, then we have an incomplete study,’ Maldonado told CBS 5.”
For more on the story, go to Jeffrey Schaub (Environment & Green Beat), “State Artificial Turf Study May Be Flawed,” on CBS-TV 5, November 6, 2009, available at http://cbs5.com/environment/artificial.turf.study.2.1294974.html or click here. A video of this report may be viewed at Video Library http://cbs5.com/video/ -- go to bottom of page, right hand corner, click on forward > until you locate in Nov 5 features the story captioned State Artificial Turf Study May Be Flawed. Check out Dr. Charles Vidair’s demeanor and body language – in a court room he would be viewed as lacking credibility.
[No. 34] Las Vegas, Nevada: Officials hid information and lied about the lead in artificial turf at children’s shelter.According to an I-Team Investigation by KLAS TV 8 (Las Vegas) (July 16, 2009), “Family Services Director Tom Morton says lead in the turf at Child Haven was no secret. Some ClarkCounty employees knew, the county managers knew and the contractors who replaced it knew. So who didn't? Most of the 100 or so people who use the facility everyday for court-ordered family visits.” “Emails reveal the faux lawn beneath the play area at the county’s shelter for abused and neglected children contained high levels of lead. The county’s Safety and Environmental Division advised, For precautionary sake... Please do not let the children play on this turf.” Here is the rest of the investigative report:
“It is our belief based on what we've been told that the exposure the children may have had while here does not constitute a reason for concern,” said Morton.
Yet concern about potential exposure to the county, not the children, dominates more than half a dozen emails exchanged among county staff. Child Haven Interim Manager Jolie Courtney instructs nine DFS employees to keep the lead content confidential because “We don't want people to think their child may have gotten lead poisoning at Child Haven.” She goes on to write, “If anyone asks, just tell them that we are redoing that area as part of the Beazer Cottage restoration.”
“This is a semantics issue. She said if people ask, tell them that we’re renovating Beazer and that's why it was cordoned off,” said Morton.
But that’s not why the area was cordoned off. I think one error in language doesn’t constitute complete malfeasance of duty,” said Morton.
Morton admits he was unaware of the email until the I-Team requested it. In a written statement, Courtney herself explains, “My email was an attempt to prevent staff from causing an unwarranted panic. I apologize for the way my email was worded.”
Morton says he never directed the staff to tell the truth about the turf and no future emails exist suggesting additional direction from Courtney. However, Morton points out, not every communication occurs online.
Further complicating matters is a disagreement between Morton’s Communications Officer Christine Skorupski and that of the county manager. Email records indicate Skorupski advocated a public media release, only to be silenced at the GovernmentCenter.
“I’m saying if the public communications officers tells us that there is no need to make a disclosure, then we don’t have the authority -- not disclosure – that’s not the right word, to make a press release out of it,” said Morton.
Though the county insists the turf posed minimal risk, it moved quickly to isolate the area, remove the material and replace it with a lead-free product.
Limited research exists about the risk of exposure to lead in artificial turf, though the Center’s for Disease Control identifies children under the age of six as the most likely to be affected.
Like mini-blinds, prolonged exposure to heat and sun degrades the material, releasing the lead as dust. Kids get the dust on their toys, on their hands, and then put their hands in their mouth and can be exposed.
The CDC recommends lead testing for all children under the age of six. In ClarkCounty, foster kids are screened when they first enter the child welfare system as part of a federally mandated medical exam. So far, according to the county, there have been no positive lead tests.
SynTurf.org Note: Please note -- the element at issue is lead, which is a neurotoxin that is responsible for developmental problems in children. Also note that the facility at Child Haven is shelter for abused and neglected children. To think that place given to children’s wellness would have them play on a lead-infested playing surface and then have the people responsible for this outrageous conduct use lies in order to deflect attention from the very serious problem of exposing their guests to neurotoxins.
[No. 33] Potomac, Maryland: What the …? According to an announcement in the Potomac Almanac, the Montgomery County Planning Board is holding a hearing on July 20, 2009, to consider an application by ConnellySchool of the Holy Child in Potomac to remove part of the MontgomeryCounty’s conservation easement in order for the school to construct a new synthetic grass playing field behind the school. The site is subject to the county’s Forest Conservation Plan. To view the meeting agenda or to download a copy of the Planning Board’s report regarding the school’s application, visit montgomeryplanningboard.org/agenda. The matter is the third item in a hearing agenda slated to begin at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 20 at the Planning Board’s location in the headquarters of the Maryland-NationalCapitalPark and Planning Commission, 8787 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. Source: “Holy Child Conservation Easement Hearing,” in Potomac Almanac, July 16, 2009, available athttp://www.connectionnewspapers.com/article.asp?article=330833&paper=70&cat=104 .
SynTurf.org Note: The hearing and its aftermath is worth following closely, as it is becoming increasingly acceptable by municipalities to rip out woods and conservation land and replace it with plastic and crumb rubber infill. The artificial turf industry is no longer content with only replacing existing natural grass fields. The U.S. EPA and state environmental protection agencies sit idly by as out natural heritage landscape goes by the way of the dinosaur.
[No. 32] New York City: Another “official” whitewash of crumb rubber.SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. June 7, 2009. In May 2009, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York State Department of Health issued An Assessment of Chemical Leaching, Releases to Air and temperature at Crumb-rubber Infilled Synthetic Turf fields. For the report click here, or go to http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/tirestudy.pdf . The authorship of the work is attributed to Ly Lim, Ph.D., P.E. of the Bureau of Solid Waste (Reduction & Recycling Division of Solid & Hazardous Materials) of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and Randi Walker, M.P.H, of the Bureau of Air Quality Analysis and Research Division of Air Resources at New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The report is the toast of the synthetic turf industry as yet another report that proves the artificial turf to be safe. Before you read on, please note the affiliation of the principal author of the study with NY’s Reduction & Recycling Division of Solid & Hazardous Materials. These are the folks who believe it is okay to launder or plough land-filled used tires into playgrounds. Their bias is as obvious as the worn out threads on an old tire.
First, a Little Background. A year ago the NY Department of Environmental Conservation looked at the existing studies about the use of crumb rubber in playing fields and playgrounds and decided, in good conscience, it could not endorse their use until further study. On June 17, 2008, it issued a study entitled A Study to Assess Potential Environmental Impacts from the Use of Crumb Rubber as infill Material in Synthetic Turf Fields, prepared by Ly Lim, Ph.D., P.E., Environmental Engineer, Bureau of Solid Waste, Reduction & Recycling, Division of Solid & Hazardous Materials, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Click here for that study or go to http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/tirestudy.pdf . In reviewing the existing scientific literature, the study reported the following 8 findings and research suggestions:
1. Many organic compounds such as PAHs, and heavy metals such as zinc can leach from the crumb rubber that is used as an infill material at synthetic turf fields. DEC suggestion: Since local conditions and standards vary among countries, or even between states, it is prudent that further study be carried out to determine if and to what degree these substances would leach from the crumb rubber under various conditions. To ensure adequate protection for the environment, a realistic worst-case scenario should be developed and investigated.
2. The concentrations of the substances of concern reported in the literature vary greatly. DEC suggestion: A crumb rubber testing program with a larger sample size is suggested to ensure high quality data.
3. The Norwegian Institute for Water Research study indicates that the ground rubber showed considerable variation in the chemical composition. Crumb rubber is also generated from different types of tires, such as car and truck tires, which have shown to have different leaching potential as reported in a Dutch study. DEC suggestion: A study on the leaching potential of different types of crumb rubber is warranted.
4. A Canadian study concludes that the use of ground rubber in playgrounds has insignificant impacts on the environment, because adverse impacts disappeared with aging of the tire crumb after three months in place in the playground. However, the Norwegian Institute for Water Research study indicates that zinc poses a significant local risk to surface water, which receives runoff from the artificial turf. The concentrations of chemicals in the runoff were predicted in this study to decrease slowly so that environmental effects may occur over many years. A Dutch study found that the concentration of zinc increases over time. DEC suggestion: The contradictory results between these studies warrant an investigation on the aging effect of the crumb rubber.
5. Among the metals shown to leach from the crumb rubber in this literature review, zinc is an element of concern because of its highest concentration in the leachate According to a Dutch study, the leaching rate of zinc from crumb rubber is up to 20 times greater than local leaching of zinc from agricultural applications of manure and pesticides. DEC suggestion: Zinc’s leaching potential and its effect on surface or ground water quality should be examined.
6. Heat effect is one of the emerging concerns associated with the use of crumb rubber at synthetic turf fields. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be offgassed from the crumb rubber, especially in an extreme heat condition which results in a very high surface temperature at these fields. It is reasonable to use 160o F as a worst-case scenario for New York State. At this high temperature, some researchers consider it unsafe for children to be playing on these fields. DEC suggestion: Off-gassing at several temperature levels, including a reasonable worst-case scenario for New York State should be evaluated. Also, the heat stress issue at turf fields should be investigated.
7. Some studies argue that the real impacts on the environment cannot be determined by utilizing laboratory tests and that actual field measurements should be carried out. DEC suggestion: To get a complete picture for this use of crumb rubber, in addition to laboratory testing, actual measurements of the substances of concern at the existing fields should be carried out.
8. A Norwegian study found airborne particulate matter (PM) in three indoor stadiums that use crumb rubber infill. At one field, 30% of the PM10 fraction and 50% of the PM2.5 fraction was rubber dust. DEC suggestion: In addition to VOCs, and semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), the potential presence of particulate matter such as PM2.5 and PM10 above the synthetic turf fields should be investigated.
Fast-forward to Present. In the preface to the present report (May 2009), the principal authors state: “From the Spring of 2008 to the Fall of 2008, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation conducted a series of studies to assess some potential impacts from the use of crumb rubber as infill material in synthetic turf fields. Crumb rubber samples were obtained from New York State manufacturers and evaluated to determine the potential for release of pollutants into the air and by leaching. Field sampling was conducted at two New York City fields to evaluate the release of airborne chemicals, release of particulate matter and measurements of heat. Ground and surface water was evaluated at other fields to assess potential impacts. The New York State Department of Health assessed the air quality monitoring survey data. This report addresses some aspects of the use of crumb rubber infill in synthetic turf fields and is not intended to broadly address all synthetic turf issues, including the potential public health implications associated with the presence of lead-based pigments in synthetic turf fibers. Information about lead in synthetic turf fibers is available in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Health Advisory available at http://www2a.cdc.gov/han/archivesys/ViewMsgV.asp?AlertNum=00275 .”
The report's Executive Summary admits, “This report is not intended to broadly address all synthetic turf issues, including the potential public health implications associated with the presence of lead-based pigments in synthetic turf fibers.” The study focused on three areas of concern: the release and potential environmental impacts of chemicals into surface water and groundwater; the release and potential public health impacts of chemicals from the surface of the fields to the air; and elevated surface temperatures and indicators of the potential for heat-related illness (“heat stress”) at synthetic turf fields.
As summarized in the executive Summary, the report reached the following conclusions:
1. The study laboratory evaluation found a potential for release of zinc, aniline, phenol, and benzothiazole. Zinc (solely from truck tires), aniline, and phenol have the potential to be released above groundwater standards or guidance values. No standard or guidance value exists for benzothiazole. An analysis of attenuation and dilution mechanisms and the associated reduction factors indicates that crumb rubber may be used as an infill without significant impact on groundwater quality, assuming the limitations of mechanisms, such as separation distance to groundwater table, are addressed.
Analysis of crumb rubber samples digested in acid revealed that the lead concentration in the crumb rubber samples were well below the federal hazard standard for lead in soil and indicate that the crumb rubber from which the samples were obtained would not be a significant source of lead exposure if used as infill material in synthetic turf fields. 2. The evaluation of volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds by offgassing proved difficult to conduct quantitatively due to the strong absorptive nature of the crumb rubber samples but the results did provide useful information for additional analytes in the ambient air field investigation. 3. A risk assessment for aquatic life protection performed using the laboratory SPLP results, found that crumb rubber derived entirely from truck tires may have an impact on aquatic life due to the release of zinc. For the three other types of crumb rubber, aquatic toxicity was found to be unlikely. 4. The study also included a field sampling component for potential surface and groundwater impacts. This work has not been fully completed at the time of this report. The groundwater sampling that was conducted shows no impact on groundwater quality due to crumb rubber related compounds, but this finding should not be considered as conclusive due to the limited amount of data available. Additional sampling of surface and groundwater at crumb-rubber infill synthetic turf fields will be conducted by NYSDEC. The results will be summarized in a separate report. 5. A field evaluation of chemical releases from synthetic turf surfaces was conducted at two locations using an air sampling method that allowed for identification of low concentration analytes and involved the evaluation of the potential releases of analytes not previously reported. Few detected analytes were found. Many of the analytes detected (e.g., benzene, 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, ethyl benzene, carbon tetrachloride) are commonly found in an urban environment. A number of analytes found in previous studies evaluating crumb rubber were detected at low concentrations (e.g., 4- methyl-2-pentanone, benzothiazole, alkane chains (C4-C11)). 6. A public health evaluation was conducted on the results from the ambient air sampling and concluded that the measured levels of chemicals in air at the Thomas Jefferson and John Mullaly Fields do not raise a concern for non-cancer or cancer health effects for people who use or visit the fields.The ambient air particulate matter sampling did not reveal meaningful differences in concentrations measured on the field and those measured upwind of the field. This may be explained by the lack of rubber dust found in the smaller size fraction (respirable range) through the application of aggressive sampling methods on the surface of the fields. Overall, the findings do not indicate that these fields are a significant source of exposure to respirable particulate matter. 7. The results of the temperature survey show significantly higher surface temperatures for synthetic turf fields as compared to the measurements obtained on nearby grass and sand surfaces. While the temperature survey found little difference for the indicators of heat stress between the synthetic turf, grass, and sand surfaces, on any given day a small difference in the heat stress indicators could result in a different guidance for the different surface types. Although little difference between indicators of heat stress measurements was found, the synthetic turf surface temperatures were much higher and prolonged contact with the hotter surfaces may have the potential to create discomfort, cause thermal injury and contribute to heat-related illnesses. Awareness of the potential for heat illness and how to recognize and prevent heat illness needs to be raised among users and managers of athletic fields, athletic staff, coaches and parents. A Critique of NYDEC Report. In a memorandum, Environment and Human Health, Inc. (www.ehhi.org) took issue with six of the NYDEC Report:
1. The New York Study sampled just two fields and on days of moderate temperatures. Those fields were the John Mullaly Field and the Thomas Jefferson Field.The study does not specify how old the fieldsare ---and that is an important factor.
2.We know from Field Turf itself that there are 40,000 tires in each field.How does this study reflect the enormous variation in product and toxins that are available? Do two fields adequately represent the enormous variation in products and consequences of aging?
3. The study found a myriad of toxic chemicals in both fields and then called their findings insignificant.
4. They did a risk assessment on each chemical - and yet the exposures from these fields are in multiples.Studies have shown that often multiple toxic exposures are far more dangerous to health than individual small toxic exposures.
5. The following chemicals were found to a lesser or greater degree: 1,4-dichlorbenzene, 4-Methyl-2-pentanone,Benzothiazole , Benzene, Freon , Methylene Chloride Chloroform, Chloromethane, 1,3-Butadiene, 1,3-Pentadiene, Benzaldehyde, Cyclohexane,trimethyl, Heptane, Cyclohexane, toluene, acetone, carbon tetrachloride, ethyl benzene, and Pentane ...... and yet the study has declared these fields safe.How could one ever decide these fields are safe with all these chemicals coming off of them - and how do we know what these toxic mixtures mean for human health? This is not like trying a assess an exposure to one compound.
6. As for heavy metals, there is a ton of zinc in rubber tires and with respect to lead, the report says that lead levels are below the federal safety standards.However, medical researchers consider these standardstoo lax.Authorities such as Phil Landrigan, MD,Bruce Lanphear, MD, MPH,and R. L. Canfield, Ph.D,suggest that no lead is safe for children, and it shouldn't be added to their play areas.
"Environment and Human Health, Inc. hopes that New York is right --and that these fields are safe, because we have thousands, if not millions, of children playing on them," wrote Nancy Alderman, the president of EHHI. "However, these fields still look very worrisome to us and this study does little to reduce our concerns. As well, we are very concerned about our smallest children playing on ground-up rubber tire mulch in their playgrounds," she said.
[No. 31] Waukegan, Illinois: The power of one.SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. May 3, 2009. According to a news report in the Lake County News-Sun (April 30, 2009) following a decision to convert the shuttered Orchard Hill Golf Course into a sports complex, in the spring of 2008 the Waukegan Park District had the soil tested for arsenic. A report by Alpha Environmental, Streamwood, Illinois, found only one site with “slightly elevated” levels of arsenic, stressing that arsenic is a naturally occurring element in soil. Suspecting a cover-up of sorts, an opponent of the project, earlier this spring, Linda Ryckman had the soil tested independently through Environmental Testing & Consulting of Memphis, Tenn. According to the test, 13 of 18 samples “indicated arsenic at levels above the acceptable limits set by the [Illinois Environmental Protection Agency] for the redevelopment planned at Orchard Hills.” The District was thus forced to consul with the IEPA and ordered a re-testing of the site. While the jury was still out on what level of arsenic actually resided in the soil, the district “announced plans to strip 3,000 cubic yards of soil from former greens on the property and truck the material to a landfill.” Source: Dan Moran, “Sports complex groundbreaking to go on as planned,” in Lake County News-Sun, April 30, 2009, available at http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/newssun/news/1551068,5_1_WA30_GOLF_S1.article .
SynTurf.org Note: The foregoing story is itself remarkable for three reasons. First, the work of one individual – Ms. Ryckman's – did make a difference, even though she could not stop the proposal from going ahead. The ground breaking was scheduled for May 1, 2009. Second, according to the news report, “[w]hen complete, the site is designed to include 13 multi-purpose natural-turf sports fields and one lighted artificial turf field for soccer, football, lacrosse and rugby.” In a world where artificial turf is often touted as a suitable cover for contaminated sites or for landfills-to-playing fields projects, Waukegan Park District went with only one (uno, 1) turf field, with 13 grass fields. One ought to ask, if arsenic was such an ordeal, perhaps the turf field would not employ materials that contain arsenic (like crumb rubber).
Third, and perhaps the saddest part of the story is what one reader of this site has aptly called, “tale of two cities.” It involves the strange conduct of the public officials in Chicago when comparable health hazards were raised by Protect Our Parks, a community advocacy group, relative to the proposal to turn Lincoln Park.
According to a communication received from POP, the group is now suing the Chicago Park District and LatinSchool to force them to conduct independent health and safety testing of the artificial turf soccer field that was crammed down into Lincoln Park over community protest. POP claims that the effects of the toxic substances that now exist at the soccer field site are insidious, cannot be detected until after a child has been
poisoned, and once ingested cannot be cured. In response Chicago has invoked every legal trick in court to fight POP and refused all proposals to conduct independent testing, at any time, of any sort, by any knowledgeable agency.
Unlike Chicago, POP points out that when a lone citizen in Waukegan, entirely on
her own, went out had the soil tested by a private testing facility, and discovered the presence of toxic arsenic levels and the danger of park users inhaling the poison, the Waukegan Park District responded responsibly by agreeing as a precautionary measure to strip 3,000 cubic yards of the contaminated soil and truck it to a protected landfill, and
to construct the sports complex with 13 multi-purpose natural grass playing
POP charges that the Chicago Park District, lacking Waukegan’s fiduciary dedication, has chosen to stonewall all the health and safety warnings about how they are exposing young children to the high risk dangers of toxic substances in the LatinSchool artificial turf soccer field. These multiple toxic substances including lead poison, cited in POP’scurrent lawsuit against the Park District, are detailed in the independent reports ofthe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the School of Public Health of the University of Illinois at Chicago and the studies of public health agencies throughout the country.
The protocol provides for the sharing of information with the public, public officials and users about the use and material safety data sheets of turf fields. It also provides for the training of the parks and forestry staff on maintenance techniques. The town will install one sign on each synthetic turf field that will read “Be aware that synthetic turf fields are hotter than natural turf fields. On hot days, please use with caution or avoid use.” The park and recreation department will require that youth and adult leagues submit accident information on a standard incident information form. The high school athletic director and/or the public schools director of student health services will require that coaches report incidents and concerns to the athletic trainer and school nurses.
A Synthetic Turf Use Working Group is established to receive information and notifications of serious concerns, which will meet at least weekly to discuss same, as appropriate. The high school athletic trainer and the public schools director of student health services will maintain a daily record of synthetic turf field use, noting any concerns related to heat or other issues and will share their report on a monthly basis with the Synthetic Turf Use Working Group.
The protocol also provides for the testing of turf fields. Members of the parks and forestry division, health department and school department will collect readings and recordings of relative humidity, and temperature of air, grass, asphalt, actual synthetic turf, 18 inches above the synthetic turf (turf knee height), and 48 inches above the synthetic turf (elbow height). A schedule for the testing, equipment used and a uniformed data sheet will be developed by the parks and forestry division, health department and the public schools and revised as needed. Reports of the readings noted above will also include date, time, field name, wind conditions and UV index.
Temperature readings will be conducted as needed, daily when the ambient temperature exceeds 90 degrees when the synthetic turf fields are scheduled for use, however this protocol does not preclude testing before the ambient temperature reaches 90 degrees. After the Town has gathered more data, temperature reading protocols will continue to be refined. If the temperature readings at ground level meets or exceed 135 degrees, the park and recreation director may convene a meeting of the Synthetic Turf Use Working Group, to discuss continued use of the field on that day.
The health department will oversee the testing of the synthetic turf fields for the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in the environment, and metals including mercury, arsenic, cadmium, zinc, selenium, and lead. An appropriately certified and experienced vendor will collect two or three samples of the rubber pellets on each field on an annual basis for submission to a fixed-base laboratory.
As for maintenance, the parks and forestry division will remove any remaining debris including leaves from the surface of the synthetic turf fields. Spot grooming will be performed on an as needed basis, particularly on fields being used for sports that heavily impact the playing surface (field hockey sticks, goal mouth areas). Grooming will be performed at least once a year, and more often if the spot grooming is not able to keep up with the changes in the field surface. GMAX testing will be performed at least once a year to insure proper cushioning effect. The synthetic turf fields may be watered down prior to use as determined by the parks and forestry superintendent.
[No. 29] Needham, Mass.: Protocol for artificial turf use. According to a news story in Needham Times (April 22, 2009), “Following concerns about the safety of artificial turf, Needham now has protocol to help ensure residents’ well-being on the town’s newly installed artificial fields.” The Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick announced the existence of the “protocol” at the Board of Selectmen meeting on April 21. “A number of staff, department managers have implemented a plan for the artificial turf fields. They have put in a protocol,” she said. “The town plans to refine the protocol in the fall by using the town’s experience with the fields this spring and during the summer,” the Times reported. Because of the fields could get too hot during the summer, the protocol calls for heat awareness signs for the benefit of the public and the town will be taking fields’ temperature. There will be a limit to the use of the field by youth groups. “The town is also planning regular testing of the soil near the fields to see if there’s any reason for concern, with some worried about vapors from the crumb rubber infill,” Times reported. Source: Steven Ryan, “Needham creates protocol for artificial turf use,” In Needham Times (WickedLocal.com), April 22, 2009, available at http://www.wickedlocal.com/needham/town_info/government/x360590723/Needham-creates-protocol-for-artificial-turf-use .
[No. 28] Greenwich, CT: Town sets up Artificial Turf Working Group to keep an eye on turf installations. On Thursday, April 16, 2009, the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a committee to study town artificial turf fields on an on-going basis. First of its kind in the nations, the measure adopts the recommendation of the Environmental Action Task Force that required the town to determine the health risks posed by arterial turf fields prior to any new installations. Seehttp://www.synturf.org/process.html(Item No. 24) for text of EATF’s recommendation/ resolution (February 26, 2009).Established by a vote of 3-0, the terms of reference of the Artificial Turf Working Group are as follows:
WHEREAS, the Board of Selectmen’s Environmental Action Task Force (“Task Force”) has been established to recommend policy to the Board of Selectmen with regard to making town government operations environmentally sustainable;
WHEREAS, the Town aspires to lead among municipalities in providing safe, healthful, environmentally responsible and financially prudent recreational facilities;
WHEREAS, the Town provides athletic fields for the conduct and support of organized athletics for its children;
WHEREAS, artificial turf athletic fields made of various plastics and other polymers rather than natural grass have been put forward as a means of meeting the Town's aspirations;
WHEREAS, the Task Force studied available scientific, health, government, environmental and industry literature, hosted presentations from alternative technologies and reviewed available Town records relative to these technologies;
WHEREAS, the Task Force raised questions about potential health, environmental and financial concerns relating to the choice between artificial turf and natural grass fields discussed in the accompanying report to the Selectmen.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Selectmen establish an Artificial Turf Working Group, to include Board of Education, Department of Parks & Recreation, Conservation Commission and Department of Health representatives, to review the initiatives set forth herein and to periodically advise the Board of Selectmen and other appointing authorities on progress to achieve the aspirations herein and any updates necessitated by changed conditions and good practice in the following areas:
Evaluation of proposed investments to replace natural grass fields with new artificial fields or renovate existing artificial turf fields with consideration to health, environmental, and cost/benefit issues;
Identification of funding and thresholds for: a) sampling current artificial turf fields and infill, and b) using an independent testing laboratory and government accepted testing protocols to evaluate the presence of and risk posed by any chemicals of concern;
Consideration of recommendations such as those from the Center for Disease Control, other Federal and State agencies and professional organizations to develop protocols and to monitor field temperatures, develop methodologies to issue appropriate advisories and establish temperature safety standards for Town artificial turf fields;
Development of artificial turf field user and maintenance standards to assist and better regulate any identified post-construction usage and maintenance concerns, in compliance with the manufacturer’s warranty;
Consideration of life-cycle costs in the financial analysis of any artificial turf field acquisition decision;
Development of new artificial turf project specifications, requiring best available technology employment with cost efficient and proper consideration to health, safety and environmental compliance regulations.
The ATWG is composed of town’s health, conservation and parks departments and Greenwich Public Schools. According to a news story in the Greenwich Times (April 16, 2009), the group’s current members areConservation Director Diane Savageau, Health Department Director Caroline Calderone-Baisley, Conservation board members Susie Baker and Lisette Henry; Michael Long, a director of environmental services at the Health Department; health board members Michael Franco and Peter Arturi, both of whom are doctors; Parks and Recreation Director Joseph Siciliano; Parks Manager Tim Coughlin; Tree Warden Bruce Spaman; and Parks board member Scott Johnson.
Representing Greenwich Public Schools are Assistant Superintendent of Schools Susan Wallerstein; Greenwich High School Athletic Director Gus Lindine; and Board of Education member Michael Bodson. Source: Frank MacEachern, “Field users want seat at the table,” in Greenwich Times, April 16, 2009, available at http://www.greenwichtime.com/ci_12159962 .
[No. 27] Greenwich, CT: Board of Selectmen will set up turf working group.According to a news story in Greenwich Citizen (April 6, 2009), on April 16, 2009, the Board of Selectmen is expected to pass a “sweeping resolution on playing fields.” Called “Selectmen's Environmental Action Task Force Artificial Turf Fields Resolution,” the resolution “calls on the [Board] to set up a working group to guide the Town in the use of artificial turf on playing fields.” According to the text of the resolution obtained by the Citizen, “the working group will be manned by representatives from the Board of Education, Department of Parks & Recreation, Conservation Commission and Department of Health. Questions recently have sprouted about health issues possibly negatively affecting developing children and teenagers who play on artificial turf.” The resolution will recognize the 14-month work of a subcommittee of the Selectmen’s Environmental Action Task Force, which led recently in the release of a study that raised questions about artificial turf. The resolution will “Include in any new artificial turf project specifications a requirement that best available technology will be employed with cost efficient and proper consideration to health, safety and environmental compliance regulations.” Source:Patricia McCormack, “Board of Selectmen to pass resolution on artificial turf,” in Greenwich Citizen, April 6, 2009, available at http://www.greenwichcitizen.com/topstories/ci_12082667 .
[No. 26]Protecting the turf: How the turf industry played the regulators.SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. April 12, 2009. Last spring when SynTurf.org was covering the epic struggle of Save the Park in Westmount (Quebec) http://www.synturf.org/westmountbrief.html, the conversations with the locals often took a turn to the dark aspects of the inside game –how the officials are sold on the product and then they come out and sell it to the public in a very quick order. A field contract could amount to $1 million or more. Many who propose the turf fields are a part of a sports lobby, influential members of the community such as bankers, entrepreneurs, developers and even philanthropists. They work the inner halls o government to garner the political support for such projects that often involve public money and public land. It would be naïve to think that there is no secrecy, lobbying and blind-siding of the public interest. Nor can one dismiss outright any unethical or illegal activity in the way that these projects come about. That is on the side of the government.
What about the industry? Certainly, the turf industry has the right to petition the government in its own right. The issue is the degree to which the government bends in favor of the industry that it is supposed to regulate. Last summer the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission undertook a review of the turf product (see http://www.synturf.org/cpsc.html ) and it was in the course of that proceeding that we suspected the turf industry would flex its muscle with the regulators. And, that it did.
Ok, this is a long one, folks, but stick with me here…this is a tale of how an artificial turf company, one FieldTurfTarkett, successfully lobbied the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to make sure that their product, artificial turf, became excluded from the testing that is required of all products having to do with children: the requirement to get tested for lead levels. As you recall, FieldTurfTarkett is MCPS’ preferred contractor for all the artificial turf in the county. So, here goes…
FieldTurfTarkett hired Van Fleet Associates, a lobbying firm in Alexandria, VA, to lobby the Consumer Products Safety Commission. What issue FieldTurfTarkett was so worried about? Why, lead levels in artificial turf, of course. In 2007 and 2008, according to records online, FieldTurfTarkett paid Van Fleet Associates $20,000 to meet with the CPSC. Records show that on May 12, 2008 CPSC Commissioner Thomas Moore and Michael Gougisha, Counselor to Commissioner Moore, met with a group of people representing the artificial turf industry. The group include Rick Doyle, the president of the Synthetic Turf Council; Joseph Motz, the chairman of the Synthetic Turf Council; Stanley Greene, the President and CEO of Sprinturf, and Walter Sanders, from said Van Fleet Associates. Jim Petrucelli, of FieldTurfTarkett, is on the Board of Directors for the Synthetic Turf Council; he was not in attendance at this meeting
Why did this group need to meet with CPSC? Coming up was H.R. 4040, An Act to establish consumer product safety standards and other safety requirements for children’s products and to reauthorize and modernize the Consumer Product Safety Commission. President Obama, then Senator Obama, was a sponsor of the bill. Part of the bill, later, law, discussed lead levels in ‘children’s products’ and requires the above-mentioned testing.
Mr. Sanders started off the discussion by stating that the purpose of the meeting was to correct any misperceptions about synthetic turf that might be the result of recent lead testing of artificial turf fields in New Jersey. Mr. Motz then added that the Synthetic Turf Council wanted to work with the CPSC to develop “a strategy for addressing any health concerns raised by lead levels in synthetic turf.”
Mr. Gougisha, the Counselor to Commissioner asked if synthetic turf as used in artificial turf sports fields would be considered a children’s product as defined by any legislation. Mr. Sanders said that it wouldn’t. Commissioner Moore then explained that was important because children’s products which contain lead above certain levels would be banned.
The meeting sounds like it was a good one for FieldTurfTarkett. A few days later, on May 15, 2008, we read a letter from Mr. Doyle to Commissioner Moore, which reads in part,
“We are particularly appreciative of your admonition to ensure that our product
does not become categorized as a "children's product" within the meaning of
eventual conference agreement on H.R. 4040. We have taken your comments to heart
and are in the process of communicating our concerns to members of the
Why did the artificial turf industry work so hard to avoid being labeled a ‘children’s product?’
If artificial turf were to be classified as a ‘children’s product,’ lead levels would have to meet stringent standards. Turf samples would be required to be tested to verify that they met the standards. The testing would have to be conducted at independent CPSC-certified labs. Now that will not happen.
And the moral of the story is?? Sorry, don’t have a clever one tonight. Just remember the rules for playing on artificial turf: when your child gets off the field, have them take off their clothes and turn them inside out; and wash immediately. Oh, and don’t get any of that nasty tire crumb on your skin.
[No. 25] Upper Darby, PA: No marching band, no turf deal. According to a news item in The Journal Register (March 18, 2009), the town of Upper Darby rescinded their acceptance of a bid to install an artificial turf field at the high school Memorial Field. The reason: the turf company would not warranty the turf for use by the marching band. The city lawyer, Francis Catania, residents had wanted a field that could stand up to the demands of the marching band, but the language in the contract did not include a protection as related to “repetitive marching” and “the kinds of things bands do.” So the town and the turf dealer-installer had a parting of ways, for now. There will be another board meeting in April 2009 to sort this out. Source: Phyllis Edwards, “Upper Darby rejects turf bid,” inThe Journal Register, March 18, 2009, available at http://www.newsofdelawarecounty.com/WebApp/appmanager/JRC/SingleWeekly;!-488381586?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=pg_wk_article&r21.pgpath=%2FNDC%2FHome&r21.content=%2FNDC%2FHome%2FTopStoryList_Story_2708886 .
[No. 24]Greenwich, Connecticut: Rules are beginning to shape for turf fields. Thirteen months ago, the Greenwich Board of Selectmen assigned a task force to research artificial turf.On Thursday, February 27, 2009, the Environmental Action Task Force presented its study to the Board. The EATF’s report to the Board was the culmination of the work of its Artificial Turf. A volunteer group, it was established under the direction of Selectman Lin Lavery shortly after she took office some 15 months ago. According to a news story in Greenwich Time, the group spent over “400 hours researching, meeting and corresponding on the subject of artificial turf safety.” The committee’s recommendations is presently the basis of a proposed ordinance before the Board of Selectmen which, if enacted, would require the town to determine the health risks posed by arterial turf fields prior to any new installations. Source: Neil Vigdor, “New turf rules force test for health risks,” in Greenwich Time, February 26, 2009, available at http://www.greenwichtime.com/ci_11794117?source=most_emailed.
The EATF’s recommendation were set forth in a resolution dated February 26, 2009, and stated the following:
WHEREAS, the Town of Greenwich aspires to lead among municipalities in providing safe, healthy, environmentally responsible and financially prudent recreational facilities to its children; and
WHEREAS, the Town provides athletic fields for the conduct and support of organized athletics for its children, and
WHEREAS, artificial turf athletic fields made of various plastics and other polymers rather than natural grass have been put forward as a means of meeting the Town's aspirations, and
WHEREAS, the Environmental Action Taskforce studied available literature and Town records relative to these technologies, and
WHEREAS, the Taskforce identified potential health, environmental and financial concerns relating to the choice between artificial and natural grass fields discussed in the accompanying report to the Selectmen;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Town of Greenwich carefully review any new investments to acquire, develop and/or replace natural fields with new artificial fields with consideration to health, environmental, benefit and financial questions, and
FURTHER RESOLVED that the Town of Greenwich sample its current artificial turf fields and infill, using an independent testing laboratory and government accepted testing protocols, to evaluate the presence of and risk posed by chemicals of concern, and
FURTHER RESOLVED that the Department of Health together with the Parks and Recreation Department monitor field temperatures, post appropriate advisories and establish temperature safety and field usage standards for all town artificial turf fields, and
FURTHER RESOLVED that the Board of Selectmen establish an Artificial Turf Working Group comprised of members with professional skills or knowledge that will advise Selectmen related to issues as they relate to updated information, and
FURTHER RESOLVED that the Town consider life-cycle costs in the financial analysis of any artificial turf field acquisition decision, and
FURTHER RESOLVED that the Town obtain an opinion from counsel as to whether there is any additional liability to the Town associated with the use of artificial fields.
[No. 23] Concord, Mass.: Environmental consultant rips town’s “expert” on turf. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. February 22, 2009. In the February 15, 2009, edition of Synturf.org we reported on the proceedings of Concord’s Board of Selectmen. The hearing involved the recent reports in the Boston Globe about high levels of lead in the 1-year old turf fields at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School. See below or at http://www.synturf.org/process.html (Item No. 22). Apparently it was not just us and our intrepid reporter who could not believe our ear when listening to the lame testimony of one Dr. Brown. Meet – Alfred Leonard, an environmental consultant; apparently he, too, hand a problem or two with Ms. Brown’s testimony. This is what he wrote in a “commentary” to The Concord Journal (February 19, 2009) available at http://www.wickedlocal.com/concord/archive/x1802691230/COMMENTARY-Lead-testing-at-fields-should-be-more-objective .
COMMENTARY: Lead testing at fields should be more objective
By Alfred Leonard/Guest Commentary
Thu Feb 19, 2009, 12:00 PM EST
Concord - As I observed the high school artificial turf presentations in the Board of Selectmen meeting on Feb. 9 , I was struck by the lack of transparency in the manner that the town communicated the risks associated with elevated lead concentrations in the new fields.
A month ago, an article on the front page of the Boston Globe identified elevated lead content in Concord’s new artificial turf fields. The article provided analytical results from several different sources, including one measurement of 13,900 parts per million (ppm) of lead in the green fiber and one (conducted by the Globe) in which the lead content of the green fiber was measured at 294 ppm. Regardless of which analytical result is correct, the possibility that lead contained in these fields may affect the health of our children deserves careful examination.
As a Concord resident, I would expect that the town’s response to these possible risks would include, at a minimum:
· Sampling and analyses performed by the town or by a truly independent party
· Description of a long-term monitoring program to be undertaken by the town
· Evaluation of results by a qualified scientist who holds paramount the health interests of the town
· Complete communication of the data and evaluation with Concord’s townspeople
· Where there is scientific controversy, complete and candid presentation of the issues
Over the past year or two, lead in artificial fields has been a contentious issue throughout the country. The state of California has sued several artificial turf vendors for failing to disclose the lead content of their products. New Jersey has determined that the state standards for lead content in soil (400 ppm) should apply to dust found in artificial turf fields. (As a point of reference, the Massachusetts standard is 300 ppm). In June 2008, in response to the New Jersey controversy, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a health advisory pertaining to the risk associated with lead in artificial turf fields. The CDC had previously issued a statement on blood lead levels in children, which stated, “there is no evidence of a threshold below which adverse effects are not experienced.” The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) responded in July 2008 with a report entitled “CPSC Staff finds Synthetic Turf Fields OK to Install, OK to Play On.”
Concord Journal readers may wish to read a Consumer Reports commentary discussing the CDC/CPSC controversy.
The town of Concord chose to accept “third party” sampling and analysis data from JJA Sports, the design contractor for these fields. The JJA letter on the topic (available on the Concord Health Department Web page) was authored by JJA president, John Amato, who is also the secretary of the Synthetic Turf Council, a national organization. JJA Sports retained the services of a New Hampshire laboratory to sample and analyze the artificial fibers for lead content. The lead content in the green fibers was measured to be 413 ppm. The data provided on Concord’s Health Department Web page are packaged with about 30 pages of material arguing the JJA position that the fields in Concord do not represent a health risk. The (controversial) CPSC position is cited liberally in these materials.
The town retained Dr. Laura Green, a chemist and toxicologist, to discuss health risks associated with the artificial turf at the Feb. 9 Board of Selectmen meeting. Dr. Green estimated, based on lead data provided by JJA and her experience with other artificial turf fields, that the lead content of dust on the Concord fields would likely be 10 micrograms per square foot (in a wipe sample) or less. She stated to the board, “I can’t think of a way that this artificial turf would affect any children playing on it.” Apparently, she does not agree with the CDC opinion that there is no concentration of lead at which there is no adverse effect.
Dr. Green does not appear to be the independent and objective scientist that the townspeople require to examine this matter. A commentary in the International Journal of Occupational Environmental Health (2007; 13:107-117) by Dr. James Huff (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) states “Industry hires academic experts to support their position; however tenuous and speculative, to endorse their products, and to explain and downplay the risks to government and in public forums.” That statement was followed with a representative list of 16 experts, including Dr. Laura Green. The commentary continued with the observation “Academic credentials often are used to shield industry views and to create the illusion of objectivity.”
I believe that the townspeople of Concord deserve an objective and transparent evaluation of the risk that may be associated with the lead content of the artificial fibers in our new fields. Such an evaluation was not evident in the Feb. 9 meeting of the Board of Selectmen.
Alfred Leonard is an environmental consultant and Bristers Hill Road resident.
[No. 22] Concord, Mass.: Sweeping it under the rug. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. February 9, 2009. This evening, Concord Board of Selectmen held an experts’ hearing on the lead test results conducted on the town’s turf fields at ConcordCarlisleRegionalHigh School. Prior to the meeting the test results and other documents pertaining to the issue were posted on the town’s website http://www.concordma.gov/pages/ConcordMA_publicworks/lead%20testing . As previously reported here and by the Boston Globe in two separate stories, the fields at Concord-Carlisle showed high levels of lead content in the fiber. Seehttp://www.synturf.org/lead.html (Item No. 24), and http://www.synturf.org/lead.html (Item No. 16). The SynTurf.org test of the Concord turf field, which was conducted by Center for Environmental Health, in Oakland, by an X-Ray Fluorescence Analyzer, showed 13,900 ppm showed. Using a different testing method (Inductively Coupled Plasma), the Boston Globe sample of the same fields showed 294 ppm.
The toxicologist Laura Green indicated that a wipe test of the field had not been taken for lead, but that there could be numerous sources of lead including air deposition. The fields abut the heavily trafficked Route 2, a consideration which was not respected by the proponents and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. In her report, Green referred to wipe samples from an artificial turf field in Maine and one in New York. As for Concord, she stated, “...it is likely that wipe samples from Concord turf would contain no more lean than 10 ug/ft2, probably less.” SynTurf.org believes that a wipe test of the concord field may have been impractical in the face of the snow-cover or, more likely, the town feared the results of wipe test.
The town’s director of public works stated that the lime-green turf fiber, which is lighter than the whole field, showed lead levels of over 500 parts per million. He said, the town testing results “are consistent with the information provided by Sprinturf showing an aggregate level of 416ppm.” This means that the town's tests results were actually higher than those provided by Sprinturf, which originally had claimed that there was no lead in its product. Regardless, 416 ppm is still above the 400ppm EPA guideline.
When asked by a Concord Selectwoman if there is any issue with lead leaching into the groundwater and effecting the nearby well, Green laughed nervously before turning to a colleague and asking “I don't know, is there a problem?”
[No. 21] Newton, Mass.: Board of Aldermen adopts eco-friendly turf resolution. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. January 25, 2009. On January 20, 2009, the legislative organ of City of Newton, the Board of Aldermen, adopted a resolution calling for “eco-friendly” artificial turf fields. Adopted on first call, with no debate, by a vote of 22-0, with two absent, the operational Resolution #7-09 read: NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Aldermen hereby requests that His Honor the Mayor ensure that the installation of synthetic in-filled turf athletic fields on city-owned property shall use sustainable, recyclable, lead-free, non-toxic products to the maximum extent feasible.
The preamble of the Resolution called attention to the Board’s previous action that had authorized funding for artificial turf fields at Newton South High School, and stated “the use of synthetic turf and infill products that, to the maximum extent feasible, are sustainable, recyclable, and free of lead, carcinogens and other potentially harmful substances will best promote and protect the public health and safety, and the environment.” The test of the Resolution as reported as Action of the Board is available at http://www.ci.newton.ma.us/Aldermen/Dockets%20&%20Reports/2008/12-15-08BoardActions.pdf . For the full text of the resolution, as obtained by SynTurf.org, click here.
[No. 20] Gift or curse? Beware of anonymous donors!The municipality wants artificial turf, because of its reasons, among which is the fallacy that it will save money on maintenance and at the same time accommodate the demographic pressures for “more-ness” out of playing fields. At the cost of $1 million a pop, or thereabouts, this stuff does not come cheap, nor is it cheap to replace the carpet every 8, 10 or whatever years and dispose of the old one ($700,000 by today’s estimate). Then what good is artificial turf field if it goes into apace that is dingy and lackluster. To get the full “benefit” of the “investment,” you got to have bleachers, and lights and snack bars and outhouses and all sorts of amenities to really give the “Friday Night” crowd a bang for the buck. But this stuff toocosts money above and beyond the cost of the turf – and most municipalities could not afford the tab. Fear not, O’ Citizen for here comes the Knight Anonymous to the rescue!
Of late it has become commonplace for “anonymous” donors to step forward and give money to school districts and municipalities to install artificial turf fields. The personal identity of these pseudo-philanthropists is not as important as who or what they represent. They are by and large people whose constituents benefit from turf installations – they can be the leagues and clubs who will play on the fields, and/or installers who install the field and then are hired to build more and maintain them all. Or maybe a sports goods manufacturer whose specialized footwear and cleats are a necessity for playing on the turf, or whose sports drinks combat heat fatigue. Regardless, it is all about “investing” – not in the community but in a scheme that provides the anonymous benefactor greater returns down the road. There ought to be a law against anonymous donations to municipal projects, period.
Recently, the Charlottesville News and Arts (Virginia) had a story about the dogged determination of some to replace natural grass fields with artificial turf fields, with the help of an anonymous donor to the cause. Here are a few excerpts from the story by Chiara Canzi, “Turf v. Grass: Have county schools rushed to judgment on the safety of synthetic turf?,” in Charlottesville News and Arts, January 13, 2009, available at
This spring, high school athletes in Albemarle County Public Schools will receive a belated Christmas gift from an anonymous donor and county supervisors: state of the art synthetic field turf for the football fields. Thousands of students will walk, run and fall on that surface while playing football, field hockey, soccer or lacrosse. Though each field costs $600,000, maintenance will be a heck of a lot easier, and their durability will allow the broader community to play on the fields when they aren’t in use for high school games.
But are these new fields really a gift—or a curse? In order to save maintenance money in the short term, AlbemarleCounty is taking a gamble on a new product that may (or may not) have health risks.
Local public high schools were prompted to convert their grass fields to artificial turf after an anonymous donor contributed $1.3 million expressly for that purpose. The county School Board was satisfied about the safety of the fields when it voted in favor of the turf in 2007, and when the Board of Supervisors weighed whether to allocate $225,000 for the cause, no worried parents showed up to a meeting on the subject this past December. Only two of the six supervisors, David Slutzky and Ann Mallek, were concerned enough to vote against the turf.
What’s far from comforting is that the pair were assigned by the rest of the Board to look into the health risks of fake turf—and after doing so, they remained unsatisfied. “I am not convinced that they are dangerous, but I am certainly not convinced that they are safe,” says Slutzky.
[No. 19] Newton, Mass. Aldermen resolve for “eco-friendly” artificial turf fields. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. January 11, 2008. Let’s get one thing clear, right off the bat: There is no such a thing as an ecologically friendly artificial turf field. There are only less-hostile alternatives to plastic fields and crumb rubber-silica infill. So, to suggest that one is selling or buying an “eco-friendly” artificial turf field is as an oxymoron as it is disingenuous. It is a spin, period; it is no less deceptive than to suggest that artificial turf fields are good for LEED points or that plastic fields are “Green” and sustainable! It is a blatant case of astroturfing or green-washing of the issues.
Anyway – On December 15, 2008, in Newton, Mass., the Board of Aldermen voted 20 to 4 to appropriate some $5 million to fix the drainage and install athletic fields at Newton South High School, in the middles of a 5-acre wetlands area, which has been supporting a few natural grass playing fields for more than 40 years. In this affluent community of 84,000 or so, apparently the cost of the project is no object. After all, this is also the city that has sanctioned the construction of a $200 million high school building to replace a 35-year facility.
The project will install two synthetic turf fields at Newton South High School. They will replace the existing natural grass fields, whose annual maintenance and capital improvements have been neglected for as long as memory serves. The fields are still playable. But the parents, coaches and proponents of artificial turf have managed to con themselves and the public into the fiction that the fields are not playable. You see, as in many communities, the “need” to replace natural grass fields with artificial turf always begins with a shameless and often baseless debasing of the existing grass fields as unplayable. Typically, the drainage is to blame. "So, fix the drainage," you say. It does not work like that.
No matter. At the Dec. 15 meeting of the Board of Aldermen, Aldermen Hess-Mahan, Salvucci, Sangiolo and Swiston found the courage of their conviction to vote “No” against a popular proposal because, in part, as savvy consumers they were not quite sold on the notion that artificial turf was without question a product not detrimental to health and the environment. The audio of the Dec. 15 meeting can be heard at http://www.ci.newton.ma.us/Aldermen/Dockets.htm#2008
After the vote, Alderman Ted Hess-Mahan, who had delivered a comprehensive outline of the reasons for his opposition to artificial turf on the basis of health and environmental concerns, on December 30, 2008, docketed a resolution [No. 7 of 2009] “proposing to His Honor the Mayor to ensure that the installation of synthetic in-filled turf athletic fields on city-owned property shall use sustainable, recyclable, lead-free, non-toxic products to the maximum extent feasible.”
The co-sponsors of the Hess-Mahan resolution included Susan Albright; George Mansfield; Verne Vance; Steve Linsky and Jay Harney, who on Dec. 15 wished they could vote for only one artificial turf field but voted for both anyway; John Freedman who, as a physician, on Dec. 15, practically vouched for the safety of artificial turf fields; and Marcia Johnson, who on Dec. 15 conditioned her vote for the fields on the pledge secured by her asking if by the show of hands the proponents in the audience would agree to take care of the fields in the future! Except for Hess-Mahan, none of the co-sponsors had a single reservation about artificial turf, much less vote against it on Dec. 15.
On January 7, 2009, the Aldermanic committees on Public Facilities and Programs & Services met in a joint session and adopted the Hess-Mahan resolution. On the Public Facilities Committee, the vote was 4 in favor (Lappin, Mansfield, Salvucci, and Yates), 2 abstentions (Gentile and Schnipper) and 1 absent (Albright) and one not voting (Lennon). On the Programs & Services Committee, the vote was 7 in favor of the resolution (Baker, Brandel, Freedman, Hess-Mahan, Johnson, Parker and Sangiolo), with one absent (Merrill).
Prior to the vote on the Hess-Mahan resolution, the committees heard from a few who have some varied levels of experience in artificial turf fields, including Dan Daluise, with roots in SprinTurf and now Field Shield, who talked about the dangers of crumb rubber, importance of antimicrobial infill and exorbitant cost of disposal of artificial turf fields (a recent field in California cost the high school $200,000) that is hardly factored into costing of turf field. Daluise, whose work with crumb rubber has been patent-worthy, was quick to point out the current concerns from a year ago about the toxic materials in infill, fiber and – wait for it – the backing of the carpet, which is typically latex or urethane.
The headliner at the January 7 meeting, however, was Ray Dunetz, the project architect for the turf “field” that was installed in 2008 at the International School of Boston (“ISB”) in Cambridge, Mass. The field there is GeoSafe Play and is manufactured by Limonata of Italy, with fibers that come from the Netherlands (Ten Cate) and infill made from coconut and cork ( http://www.geosafeplay.com/services.htm ).
The Dunetz testimony had its limitations, however. First, one Alderman made appoint about the lightweight cork and coconut (organic) getting blown around (presumably in the wind). Dunetz’s response in disagreement should have been prefaced by the observation that the premises of ISB are walled in so that the “field” is not subject to the windswept and/or rain storm dynamics experienced in open spaces like at the fields at Newton South. Second, the field at ISB is not a full-size playing field; it is slightly larger than a tot lot playground. Third, the incidence of reduced “injury” reported to the school nurse when compared to pre-turf days may well be the result of injuries now not drawing blood as they tended to on a dirt surface.
As the background material on Newton South High School turf project, published here and elsewhere, indicates ( seehttp://www.synturf.org/newtonbrief.html ), this has been a burning issue in the community for over two years now, during which periodic updates from SynTurf.org was sent to Aldermen for their edification. Yet, as the audio recording of the January 7 meeting indicates, there are still Aldermen who cannot tell the difference between the turf fiber, the backing or the infill!
Two particular sets of comments made at the January 7 were most disheartening. First, on the audio recording of the meeting, one Alderman is heard asking why the issue of “eco-friendly” alternatives was not raised before and it is being raised now. The answer to that is very simple – as witnessed by SynTurf.org, in the multiple public hearings on the subject the Aldermen were mostly interested in hearing from the proponents of the project, never allowing adequate time for the alternatives to be explored. The particular Alderman who raised this point himself had dismissed and derided the opponents of the proposed crumb-rubber infill turf fields as ones who hade made it their life’s work to stop the turf fields in Newton South!
Second, the Mayor of Newton, David Cohen, who probably would like nothing more than to cut the ceremonial ribbon at the Newton South athletic complex before he leaves office, has been presiding over a procurement process of dubious integrity. It has been secretive. Because the installation of turf fields at this location had been pre-determined from day one, the acquisition and purchasing process has been managed so as to get the project done per the mayor’s whim. Debate has been delayed and stifled in the interest of moving the project forward. At the January 7 meeting, it was once again evident that none of this project has been properly sent out to bid, as everything has been handled closely by the engineering department in cahoots with the Mayor’s office and a consultant/representative that the city hired to do the design. The specifications, as one Alderman intoned, have been written and the project is going to break ground in May. It looks like the same consultant will eventually select the vendor(s) for goods and services incidental to the installation, as if the project’s de facto manager.
The Mayor has no patience for examining alternative eco-friendly products. He told the January 7 meeting, the consideration and adoption of alternative products will kill the timetable for the project and raise the price. He rode the same two excuses when exhorting his flock to get on board the Newton North High School building project – the train has left the station, too late, too bad.
Exactly when is it okay to stop and not commit to a project or product whose potential harm to health and the environment may be irreversible? The city has spent more than $300,000 on the project already and this fact alone will be given by the administration as the reason to move head with spending the other $4.7 million.
On January 22, 2009, the turf project will be subject of a public hearing before the Conservation Commission. The Ted Hess-Mahan resolution will next be taken up by the full Board of Aldermen at a time to be announced.
[No. 18] Springfield, Ill.: AG’s office is reviewing health and environmental concerns about artificial turf fields. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. November 25, 2008. SynTurf.org has learned Illinois Attorney General’s office is reviewing the factual and legal issues relating to children’s exposure to lead in artificial turf fields. The fact of the review was disclosed in a letter, dated November 24, 2008, by Vanessa Vail, state’s Assistant Attorney General at the Environmental Bureau, to Herbert Caplan, president of Protect or Parks, a nonprofit (www.protectourparks.org), which has been opposing the installation of artificial turf fields in Chicago’s Lincoln Park (for details see
http://www.synturf.org/grassrootsnotes.html (Item No. 42). “Our Office is currently reviewing all of the factual and legal issues in an effort to ensure that human and the environment are protected and that manufacturers of artificial turf are complying with the environmental laws,” Vail wrote. Vail’s letter was responding to Caplan’s letter dated September 17, 2008, calling attention to children’s exposure to lead from artificial turf fields. For Vail’s letter to Caplan, click here.
[No. 17]Stamford, Conn.: The “hurry up, no huddle” turf decision perverts the democratic process. As reported here previously, in September 2008 the city’s Zoning Board okayed the installation oftwo artificial turf fields at West Beach park in the Shippan part of Stamford (http://www.synturf.org/grassrootsnotes.html -- Item No. 41). The group Save West Beach Park did all that an informed citizenry can do to highlight the project’s potential harm to health and the environment.
Now, as it turns out, the process by which the proponents rammed the project through the approval process may have violated land-use approval procedures. According to a news item in The Advocate (November 25, 2008), “Nine Shippan residents and a citizens group called Save West Beach Park are suing the city over the project, saying the city failed to obtain a report from the Planning Board, among other claims. The city Charter states that the city may not take action on any public improvement project until it ‘has been referred to the Planning Board for a report.’”
While the matter had been on the agenda of the Planning Board, no report was issued by the body.According to the city’s director of legal affairs, Thomas Cassone, “The bottom line is that this a very small faction of people who are opposing something that representatives of Stamford are overwhelmingly in favor of. They are just bound and determined to fight it for whatever their private reasons are.” The plaintiffs’ lawyer,James Fulton, said “It goes to whether the law or the process is being respected.” Source: Elizabeth Kim, “Turf debate switches to legal battle,” in The Advocate, November 24, 2008, available at http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/localnews/ci_11067822 .
SynTurf.org Note: Thomas Cassone is a hack. He may have a law degree but he carries water for the pols. That is his job. Inexcusably, however, he is a Neanderthal for suggesting that the approval of the turf project was lawful a priori just because “the representatives of Stamford are overwhelmingly in favor of.” The history of this land is replete with examples of one or two or ten, always a minority, who have taken city hall to court and put a stop to its lawless conduct.
Here is an example: In 2006, the Board of Aldermen of the City of Newton, Massachusetts, voted 22-0 for the city to pay for the renovation of two municipal parks with monies from a special account known as the community preservation fund. The measure had been approved by every elected or unelected committee that had considered it and had great support in the community. Opposing the (mis)appropriation was a group of residents who believed that the appropriation violated the law that governed the use of the funds. After spending many futile months of arguing the legal issue before several governmental committees, the ten residents sued the city and won their case in the trial court on a motion for summary judgment. The city appealed to the highest court in the sate. In October 2008, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the lower court’s decision in the favor of the ten residents. The case is Seideman and others v. City of Newton, SJC 10135 (24 October 2008). For the lower court’s decision click here, for the SJC’s decision click here.
[No. 16] Connecticut: Hiding the inconvenient truth.The following is an excerpt of a longer commentary by one Cathy Drinan. The passages below highlight the canard that passes for “disclosure” of information about artificial turf fields, on the basis of which politicians and proponents then sell the public on turf fields.
During a recent conference in Connecticut, I heard a great talk by a toxicologist on this subject. The fact that a toxicologist is interested in the topic tells you something from the get-go. I won’t give you his name at this time, as he reminded us that his research is still in progress.
When I heard this particular presentation, an interesting thing happened. A man in the audience wanted the speaker to return to a previous slide and explain in greater depth the effects of leachate from artificial turf on surrounding water quality. The speaker said he could not at that moment, as he was pressed for time, but would be happy to speak to the man afterward. The man with questions was visibly upset and quite insistent. He said he needed this information because people were building these artificial turf fields in Massachusetts without paying attention to the proximity of water bodies and sensitive habitats, as they would with other projects, such as septic systems.
Again, the speaker declined and moved on with his presentation. At that point, the desperate man from Massachusetts did a desperate thing. He took out his digital camera, slunk down in his chair and began to take pictures of the speaker’s slides! I was reminded of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry and Kramer are making bootleg movies with videos shot at the theater.
What was this man thinking? He wasn’t thinking, really. He was feeling desperate and went into survival mode.
There’s no need for that, though, as there’s a ton of research is being done on this topic and there’s enough reason to hold off on the building of artificial turfs until we get reliable answers on how to mitigate the problems.
For more on this gripping frontline account of politicians hoodwinking the public, go to
[No. 15] Southington, Conn.: Board of Ed has questions about safety, health and cost of turf. According to a report in the Record-Journal (Meriden, Connecticut), the Southington Board of Education at its October 23, 2008, meeting conditioned its support of an artificial turf field at Fontana Field on “find[ing] out more about safety and health issues and make sure that installation and maintenance are privately funded.” The presentation by the athletic director, Eric Swallow, could not clinch the deal for the proponents of the field based on his “research” of an artificial turf field in New Canaan.
According to the Record, “Many board members were concerned about how the replacement would be funded, especially in the event that all the private funds have not been raised or donors have backed out of their donations by the time the surface needs replacement.” The BOE chairman, Brian Goralski tried to bully the project through by declaring, “I support a turf field, period. I played on it. I'm familiar with it.” Board member Patricia Johnson would have none of it. Concerned about the school system ending up with paying for the replacement of the field in 10 years’ time, Johnson also noted the lack of solid data on health risks of artificial turf. “I'm concerned about the fact that there are no conclusive studies to this,” she said. Source: Richie Rathsack, “Council discusses installation of artificial turf field,” in Record-Journal, October 23, 2008, available at http://www.myrecordjournal.com/site/tab1.cfm?newsid=20176077&BRD=2755&PAG=461&dept_id=592709&rfi=6 .
[No. 14] Brockton, Mass.: Artificial turf (fake grass) does not green space make! In the City of Brockton, Massachusetts, an ordinance requires green space on every business property, anywhere between 10% to 25% of the total area, depending on the zone. According to a recent article in The Enterprise, the city has asked the owner/operator of Prestige Car Wash to remove the artificial turf that covers more tan the minimum of 10% of the property to the edge of the street. The city says, artificial turf is not green space. The owner claims, “There’s nothing in the city ordinance that defines green space,” The Enterprise reported. Source: Elaine Allegrini, “Grass is greener, but Brockton says it’s not green space,” in The Enterprise, October 16, 2008, available at http://www.enterprisenews.com/business/x1572989765/Grass-is-greener-but-Brockton-says-it-s-not-green-space .
[No. 12] Palm Beach, Florida: Artificial turf does not count as “open space.” The Kaufmann’s installed artificial turf in their shady backyard. The Town of Palm Beach objected. According to a report in the Palm Beach Daily News, while [t]he town has no law banning artificial lawns or regulating their use,” the town “does not recognize such turf as open space.” “That means the Kaufmanns' property falls short of a town requirement that at least 50 percent of each of the lots in the Kaufmanns' zoning district be landscaped or open space,” the daily reported. “If the turf were counted,” the story goes, “60 percent of the Kaufmanns’ 24,734-square-foot lot would be landscaped or open. Because it isn’t, only 21 percent of the lot is counted toward the town requirement.”
The town’sArchitectural Review Commission has recommended that the Town Council ban artificial turf in town. The Garden Club of Palm Beach also opposes the use of artificial turf, according to the report. The daily also reports, citing environmental and safety concerns, the town council has “outlined a draft ordinance that would tightly govern and curtail use of the product.” “The council instructed town staff to draft an ordinance allowing the artificial turf only in areas where a landscape architect has certified that grass won't grow; capping coverage at about 10 percent of lot size; forbidding its installation in areas visible to neighbors or the public; prohibiting the use of crumb rubber; and requiring annual maintenance inspections at the owners' expense.
The council also specified that approvals of artificial turf, which has a lifespan of 7 to 10 years, not be grandfathered. The ordinance also would give the town the right to rescind approval at any time.”
According to the Daily News
After reading a report on the petroleum-based product by town consultant Kimley-Horn & Associates, Councilwoman Gail Coniglio said she is concerned about algae, bacteria and drainage problems that can result if the turf isn't properly maintained.
Council President Richard Kleid said allowing the turf could lead to "excesses" that would dilute the town's green space requirements.
Councilman David Rosow said he is concerned after reading that the turf can reach temperatures exceeding that of asphalt. He also questioned how the artificial product would affect organisms that live in the soil beneath it.
Councilwoman Susan Markin said she was struck by the enormity of the Kaufmanns' turf coverage — 8,149 square feet, or nearly one-third of their property. "If we condone it, we'll have a lot more of it," she said. "I can only accept it if it is used in a minute way. I don't think we should take away from the natural habitat."
[No. 11] Pontoon Beach, Ill.:Soccer club sues SportExe over problems with its artificial turf. The Village of Pontoon Beach is 10 miles northeast of St. Louis, Missouri, in Madison County, Illinois. According to an article in The Record (St. Clair, Illinois), “Soccer For Fun” club in Pontoon Beach has field a lawsuit against SportExe, alleging that “the turf did not perform as indicated by SportExe because it was not properly installed because they used an excessive amount of filler in the product along with other installation problems.” The field was installed in 2004. “In addition, Soccer For Fun alleges the installation and product supplied by SportExe was not in conformity with what was represented to have been installed properly which causes their employees to have to do a spraying of the area daily and repainting of the lines on the product on an on-going basis.” “Soccer For Fun further alleges that the premises cannot be kept clean because seams continue to come apart, rubber splatters when a soccer ball hits the floor and the material tufts.” The club claims, “the breach of contract has caused them to incur a substantial amount of maintenance related costs and has caused them to lose business because of the condition of the flooring and resulting unsightliness of it.” Source: Steve Gonzalez, “Lawsuit filed over synthetic turf,” in The Record (St. Clair, Illinois), September 8, 2008, available at http://www.stclairrecord.com/news/214678-lawsuit-filed-over-synthetic-turf .
[No. 10] Fake Grass in Rancho Mirage: Laying waste to the desert. Guive Mirfendereski, SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. September 7, 2008. One of the eight municipalities that makeup the Palm Springs area, Rancho Mirage is located in Riverside County. It is most famous for its 12 golf courses, also known as country clubs, which do brisk business. A vacation and recreation destination, the city’s Desert Island hotel-golf resort is built on an island surrounded by an artificial lake. Water is not an abundant resource, here. According to the city’s website, residents are urged to save water by installing irrigation clocks. The city itself has moved to drought-tolerant plantings/landscaping along all median islands and city parkways, a practice that is being duplicated on the grounds of new city buildings as well . All proposed projects submitted to the city are reviewed for potential adverse effect on water quality. The city routinely tests for water pollutants in its catch basins. Seehttp://www.ci.rancho-mirage.ca.us/about_rancho_mirage/environmental_programs/index.php .
While water conservation by residents is made necessary because of chronic drought and shortage of water supply, there is absolutely no sound environmental reason why Rancho Mirage is becoming a landfill for used tires. According to the city’s website, the rubberized overlay material used in city’s streets is made of used tires. Rubberized tiles, also made form used tires, ornate the new library’s Children’s Room, as opposed to carpeting or some other surface material. In case one is wondering, besides the obvious issue of latex allergies, rubberized products made of used tires contain a variety of harmful substances, including zinc and lead, and some of the volatile and semi-volatile organics contained in the rubberized/ synthetic surfaces tend to off-gas under certain conditions. Seewww.ehhi.org for a useful primer on toxicity of crumb rubber, a byproduct of used tires, in artificial turf and garden mulch at http://www.ehhi.org/reports/turf/. See also an Op-Ed by the President of Environment and Human Health (North Haven, Connecticut) at http://www.norwichbulletin.com/opinions/columnists/x469173708/ . The EHHI’s website also contains useful information about the harmful effects of bisphenol A (BPA) that is used in plastics, which is also present in a number of products that are associated with synthetic surfaces, like artificial turf fields. It is an overindulgent and perverted form of environmentalism to take used tires and other potentially harmful substances from landfills and re-introduce them into the life-space in the name of recycling.
A similarly misguided form of conservationism is being pursued mindlessly in the City Hall landscape renovation project. According to a recent article in The Desert Sun, the project that will cost almost $500,000 will change 90% of land surrounding the buildings (59,400 square feet) will be replaced by desert landscaping. Get this – “Once the project is complete,” the Sun reported, “the remaining 6,300 square feet will have synthetic turf.” O, Joy: an eco-desert rug to go along with desert landscaping! The silver-lining, according to the Public Works Director Bruce Harry, “Water usage should decrease by 60 percent, bringing the monthly water bill from $2,000 to $800.” See Source: Colin Atagi, “Rancho Mirage saves green with new green,” in The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, Calif.), September 4, 2008, available at http://www.mydesert.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008809040313 .
For the sake of a fistful of dollars, Rancho Mirage has chosen to carpet a part of its landscape with plastic grass, infilled with sand silica and possibly crumb rubber from used tires. There is a huge environmental cost associated with artificial turf surfaces. According to the research from the Canadian-based Athena Institute, synthetic turf field the size of a football field with a 10-year life-cycle has a carbon footprint equal an amount that will take 930 trees to neutralize. While the trees around the City Hall may be spared, it is doubtful that this conservation-minded community is about to plant and care for an additional 930 trees. Seehttp://www.athenasmi.org/projects/recentProjects.html .
If the synthetic turf field at the City Hall plaza is to be used for recreation and events, the city will soon find out that many activities on the surface are forbidden in order to ensure the longevity of the expensive carpet. Fireworks especially are not allowed. To protect the turf field from vandalism and unauthorized use, the city will find out soon that it would have to fence it in and institute a permit system. Open space will no longer be a multipurpose and accessible resource. And, here is the real clincher, on a hot day, the city may have to water down the field, to settle the dust and lower its surface temperature.
One assumes the project’s artificial turf component has received the necessary approval under city’s water quality guidelines. Was there any attention paid to the leaching of toxic and other harmful substances from the turf field? Was there adequate review of the effect of the detached carpet-fuzz (broken and worn plastic grass blades)? Was there an adequate review of the potential harm to environment and patrons of this spread from the migration of crumb rubber, if any will be applied to the turf? Synthetic turf is an impervious surface. While the carpet is porous, the system is not impervious in the sense that water from it (rain or irrigation) is conducted away into a drainage system, very little water making its way into the ground. Was any thought given to the replacement cost of the frayed and faded carpet, and how the old one would be disposed and at what cost?
Finally, was any thought given to the annualized cost of turf’s installation, maintenance, replacement and disposal versus annualized cost of maintaining drought-resistant natural grass at site?
There is nothing green about artificial turf. The promoters of this product ought to stop marketing it as green, environmentalists ought to stop giving LEED points to turf installations and the public and officials should not fall for the “low maintenance – no-watering” part of the pitch. The synthetic turf part of the City Hall renovation project is a clear case of officials arguably wanting to be pennywise but definitively being pound foolish.
[No. 09] Auburn, New York: School District says “No, thank you” to private money for turf. On August 26, 2008, The Citizen reported “[t]he Auburn Enlarged City School District Board of Education hammered one final nail into artificial turf's coffin Tuesday” by voting unanimously “to return $150,000 that was to offset the taxpayer share of artificial turf installation at Holland Stadium.” “The funds had been donated or secured by local community members, business leaders, nonprofits and state officials,” reported The Citizen. The action came a week after the board's long range planning committee decided to pull turf from its postponed capital project entirely. Source: Alyssa Sunkin, “Auburn school board returns turf money,” in The Citizen, August 26, 2008, available at http://www.auburnpub.com/articles/2008/08/27/latest_news/latestnews03.txt .
[No. 08] Bayonne, New Jersey:Local Redevelopment Authority says synthetic is cost prohibitive. On August 14, 2008, the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority OK’d the solicitation of bids for the construction of two soccer fields that will be built at the Peninsula at BayonneHarbor. The representative form the parks department was pushing for artificial turf, parroting the industry line that the turf is cheaper and lasts for 10 years! According to The Jersey Journal, “If we really want to do this right we should be looking at synthetic turf, not natural grass, and a multipurpose field, not just soccer,” said Chuck Singer, who works in the parks department. “Natural (grass) will be too expensive over the long term, synthetic has a 20-year life with low maintenance . We need to do this right.” The BLRA Executive Director Joseph Nichols responded: “We looked at synthetic, the costs are large . Over $1 million, over and above natural grass." Nichols continued, “Now we do have a synthetic alternative in the current plan, but we're just going out for bids, and synthetic may be prohibitively expensive.” Source: Jonathan Shapiro, “BLRA backs soccer fields, probably with grass,” in The Jersey Journal, August 15, 2008, available at http://www.nj.com/news/jjournal/bayonne/index.ssf?/base/news-4/1218781589275590.xml&coll=3 .
[No. 07] New Kensington, Penn.: Beware of creeping change orders, cost overruns.According to a news story in The Valley News Dispatch, the cost of the Kensington Valley Memorial Stadium’s artificial turf project keeps going up. It is now 40% over its initial budget. On July 24, 2008, the New Kensington-Arnold School Board “grudgingly but unanimously agreed to spend an additional $160,000 in modifications to the bleachers to accommodate the wider field.” That is on top of more than $500,000 in June to build a retaining wall and put turf down on an additional area. The initial contract with the Philadelphia-based Spinturfwas for $540,000 to install the artificial turf field, which is now ballooned to $750,000. The School Board member Bob Sauro said, “We should have used an architect," said board member Bob Sauro. "It seems like every meeting we're adding and adding.”
[No.06] Middleton, New Jersey:Turf contractor nightmare. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. July 25, 2008. Repairing or installing artificial turf is not like patching the lawn or rolling out the sod for the first time in your front yard. It is a construction project, especially when it has to do with putting down over an acre of artificial turf material, and infill on top of a hyper-engineered geo textile and gravel drainage pipes. The lesson learned by the town of Middleton, New Jersey, is a good one to bear in mind when it comes to embarking on turf projects. It is not always about the reputation of the contractor or the product that is being installed. More often the inadequacies arise out of a faulty and questionable bidding process, haste, and challenges posed by the natural environment.
On July 21, 2008, the Town of Middleton’s Board of Education voted to award a contract to a new construction manager/project engineer for Middletown High School North's turf field project. This was made necessary because the old contractor (Mondo USA) went into default in May, 2008, for failure to provide a start date to return to the field to address repairs. Mondo had been on the project since August 2007, but it went off the turf because of a lawsuit in which a bidder challenged the granting of the project to Mondo. On July 15, 2008, the town finally yanked the project from Mondo. Now, according to Asbury Park Press, “the next step in the turf-field saga is for the board to appoint a construction manager and project engineer (both positions will be filled by the same company) to draw up specifications on not only how to complete the field, but how to address repairs needed on the field as well.”
[No.05]Bainbridge Island,Washington: City wants assurances that turf field will not harm water quality. This story is about a project to install two artificial turf fields at Battle Point Park. According to a blog on the Kitsap Sun, City of Bainbridge Island has asked the Bainbridge park district “to provide professional documentation that the two turf soccer fields proposed for Battle Point Park will not adversely impact drinking water in the surrounding area. The city is also asking for the last 10 years worth of water quality reports from the park's well.” This reverses the city’s earlier determination that “possible contamination levels from the project would not exceed levels allowed under state and federal rules.” Source: Tristan Baurick, “City’s getting tough on turf,” July 2008, available at http://blogs.kitsapsun.com/kitsap/bainbridge/archive/2008/07/higher_hurdle_for_artificial_t.html . For other stories relating to turf wars on Bainbridge Island, go to http://www.synturf.org/grassrootsnotes.html (Items No. 35 and 23).
[No. 04]Edison, New Jersey: School board rejects private grant for turf field. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. June 22, 2008. If your municipality is anything like Newton, Mass. or Township of Edison (New Jersey), much is made of public-private sector partnership when it comes to the installation of artificial turf fields. The argument typically results in the giving up of the public land and much of the public treasure so that the private organizations that promote one sport or another could have the run of the fields. Of course, the private (and most often “non-profit”) will throw in a few proverbial bucks to give the appearance of “partnership” and provide for the local public school athletics a certain hours of the weeks to use the fields.
Well, in Edison the folks have seen right through the gimmick. According to a story in The Star-Ledger, in the week of June 15, 2008, the Edison school board declined to accept a $1.5 million grant from Middlesex County to install synthetic turf on a local field. The Mmayor of Edison said, "In hard economic times it's difficult to understand why any organization would turn down funds." The school board officials however “wanted no part of the grant because they would have to open the field to all county residents.” As the Vice President Joseph Romano explained “it's unfair to give perpetual open access to the field when synthetic turf lasts no longer than 10 years, and the cost of upkeep would fall on local taxpayers.”
[No. 03] Anne Arundel County, Maryland: County Council ordersaudit of agency head over turf contract. The Baltimore Sun reported on June 17, 2008, the head of the AnneArundelCounty agency that approved an $11 million contract to install artificial turf at county high schools contributed to the 2006 political campaign of the winning company's vice president, according to campaign finance records and interviews.
The head of the AnneArundelCounty agency in question is Fred Schram; he directs the county’s central services. The turf contractor in question is Sunny Acres Landscaping; it is run by Les Belcher Jr., who is also a fellow member of the Old South Country Club, a prestigious club that boasts a membership roster of powerful and well-connected players in state politics and business. Schram and Belcher are golfing buddies. When Belcher’s son, Les Belcher III ran for Maryland’s General Assembly Schram bought a $200 ticket to attend his fundraiser in March 2006.
According to The Sun, “Though the Davidsonville-based company was the lowest bidder in a sealed process this spring, some County Council members have expressed concern about whether it was qualified to receive the contract. On May 30, the council ordered an audit of the contract and froze funding for the project. Last night, the council also gave the auditor the authority to hire an attorney and a forensic computer specialist to assist in the review.”
“Betsy Dawson, the executive director of the Anne Arundel ethics commission, said there was no rule requiring county employees to disclose personal relationships unless the employee stands to benefit financially. Under a law passed by the County Council that goes into effect July 1, contractors - but not county officials - will be required to disclose personal and political ties.”
No. 02] City of Newton, Mass. November 2007 -- drainage review, feasibility analysis and design/engineering for athletic fields, turf and/or grass, located primarily in wet areas. November 2007. PDF document.
[No. 01] Scarborough, Maine (2006): Invitation to Bid (ITB) for installation of an artificial turf field at the Oak Hill Sports Complex in the Town of Scarborough. PDF document.