This page is dedicated to occasional news stories that question the installation of artificial turf playing fields in a community. Ordinarily, www.SynTurf.org will digest the news item into the form of an entry and provide, when available, a link to a website where the matter originated or it is discussed at a greater length. You may want to check also the page titled "Just Words!'
[No. 60] Portsmouth, New Hampshire – Non Toxic Portsmouth hosts a seminar about having safe playing fields. The New England Grassroots Environment Fund (Grassroots Fund) https://grassrootsfund.org/ seeks to energize and nurture long term civic engagement in local initiatives that create and maintain healthy, just, safe and environmentally sustainable communities. One of its affiliated groups is Non Toxic Portsmouth (“NTP”) https://grassrootsfund.org/groups/non-toxic-portsmouth , which has been successful in getting Portsmouth to curb its use of harmful substances in places like ball fields, parks, cemeteries and even on sidewalks; the group advocates the use of proven organic and natural approaches to maintaining public open spaces. The group maintains a page at https://www.facebook.com/nontoxicportsmouth/ .
On Thursday, 15 February 2018 NTP, Non Toxic Dover, the Conservation Law Foundation, and Eldredge Lumber co-sponsored their second seminar on making Portsmouth a toxin-free city, and protect the watersheds and waterways. The program featured national experts, who presented the facts and the science about the health dangers of toxic crumb rubber playing fields to children versus the practicality and cost/benefits of organically maintained natural turf fields.
The seminar featured Chip Osborne of Osborne Organics, a nationally known expert on natural turf playing fields, and Rachel Massey, Senior Associate Director and Policy Program Manager at the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute at the University of Massachusetts –Lowell.
The welcoming remarks were delivered by Melissa Paly, Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper, Conservation Law Foundation.
Massey spoke about the health and water quality impacts of crumb rubber. Osborne’s presentation was about cost and benefits of organic/natural turf for high-use sports complexes.
The lectures, which included power-point presentations, were followed by Q & A and discussion, with closing remarks delivered by the organizer and NTP contact person Ted Jankowski ( email@example.com).
The proceedings were recorded and the video is available on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0RwxQH7L8c . The video is titled “Artificial Turf vs Organic Grass 2 15 2018 1” and was published on 19 February 2918.
[No. 59] Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts - Short and Sweet: A triumphant activist’s take on taking on artificial turf projects. Rebekah Thomson is the Spokeswoman for Vineyarders for Grass Fields. We have chronicled already her group’s extraordinary success in defeating the proposal to install artificial turf fields at the high school. SeeG. Mirfendereski, “Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts – Rationality helps natural grass fields plan triumph over plastic fields project,” at http://www.synturf.org/sayno.html (Item No. 179). A part of that campaign focused on apprising the public and policymakers of the risks associated with artificial turf fields – least of which was that the project was a fiscal boondoggle. We re-published her May 2016 opinion piece on the subject of promoting natural grass fields http://www.synturf.org/justwords.html (Item No. 51).
I am glad to hear that Falmouth is taking a look at the health effects of synthetic turf, although unfortunately any real assessment of health risks is impossible. Every study the industry/Gale Associates cites reveals conflicts of interest and/or faulty methodology. And bear in mind there are no legitimate long-term studies or research on alternative infills—they are simply too new and, like tire crumb, the materials too variable. But an absence of evidence is not evidence of safety.
The precautionary principle mandates that “even in the face of scientific uncertainty we have an ethical mandate to prevent suffering and harm.” One of the steps to implementation involves “heeding early warnings so we can take action in advance of absolute proof of harm.” In the case of synthetic turf, the warnings are already here. We know that the plastic carpets are petrochemical products made with phthalates, treated with flame retardants, herbicides, and UV stabilizers, and contain lead and other heavy metals. We know the carpets are infilled by a variety of pulverized, chemical-laced, respirable materials. We know that fields are sanitized with biocides. We know these are all recognized human and environmental health hazards. We know that as the acres of plastic “grass” fibers and infill inevitably break down, the particulate from all those materials migrate into the broader environment and into children’s vulnerable and developing bodies. And we know that athletes are already getting sick. I hope that Falmouth will heed the warnings now, before there is “absolute” proof of harm.
Based on the quotes in this article, Mr. Finneran and Mr. Hargraves sound like they are on the right track. If Falmouth is anything like the Vineyard, its grass fields have been neglected for years. Systems based turf grass maintenance has come a long way, and it’s amazing to see what grass can do when we actually begin to invest in it. On the Island we have finally begun to maintain our playing fields (so far just extra mowing, aeration, overseeding with high quality seed, and on some fields, fertilization and improved irrigation). The results have been positive, and it’s not breaking the bank or taking chances with human or environmental health.
We debated this issue intensively on the Vineyard and would be happy to share any/all resources including info on grass maintenance as well as the concerns surrounding synthetic turf with alternative infills.
[No. 58] Chicago, Illinois: Grassroots organization raises awareness bout crumb rubber. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. April 2, 2011. On Monday, March 21, 2011, a Chicago-area grassroots organization HealthyPlay (www.healthyplay.org) held a panel discussion at The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, N. Cannon Drive, in Lincoln Park. Titled “Toxic Chemicals: The Safety of Synthetic Fields and How Environmental Laws, the symposium heard from Dr. Joel Forman, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Community and Preventive Medicine, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Environmental Health andmember of the CDC Lead in Pregnancy Workgroup; Dr. Susan Buchanan, Clinical Assistant Professor, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Illinois Chicago, a specialist in Occupational and Environmental Medicine and a family physician, and director of the Great Lakes Center for Children's Environmental Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health; Dr. Helen Binns, Professor in Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine, Children's Memorial Hospital Chicago, specializing in studies on preventive care delivery, lead poisoning, obesity, and tobacco addiction; and Carolyn Raffensperger, Executive Director of Science and Environmental Health Network, an environmental lawyer specializing in fundamental changes in law and policy necessary for protection and restoration of public health and the environment.
According to a citizen’s report of the meeting received by SynTurf.org, the evening was a successful presentation. There was a relatively large audience of concerned parents and no outspoken advocates of turf over grass. Dr. Forman gave an objective and fair balanced slide presentation describing all the dangers of artificial turf to juvenile health and safety and pluses of natural grass. The only counter-arguments he felt obliged to mention were the need to combat juvenile obesity with available athletic facilities and the quick drying advantage of artificial turf after rains. He did observe that the true maintenance costs of artificial turf are realistically probably greater than sodding new more durable natural grass varieties in a well drained field.
Dr. Forman’s facts and warnings were echoed by Caroline Raffensberger, an environmental lawyer from Iowa, and the daughter of a Chicago surgeon who had often labored to solve the problem of the “unexplained” continuing increase in numbers of childhood tumors and diseases, which are the product of exposure to pollution. She said the law is presently unfair because it puts the burden of proof of toxicity entirely on the victim rather then making the burden of proving safety on the manufacturer. She emphasized that there is often a long period of latency between exposure to dangerous substances and the appearance of symptoms when it is too late for treatment and cure. She eloquently argued that there is compelling evidence of the dangers of artificial turf and of the shredded scrap tire infill and the best practice is to avoid dangers not put kids at risk and regret it later. For more information about this organization and how you can helped them achieve their goals, please firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com .
Do you want these destroying your clean water? Artificial turf fields are wrong for Great Falls!
[No. 57] Fairfax, Virginia: Artificial turf fields are wrong for Great Falls. The Great Falls Clean Water (www.greatfallscleanwater.org) is the web-based grass roots effort “to clarify and voice our concerns as Great Falls citizens about the proposed artificial turf field at Leo Santaballa field.” The website asks that people call Supervisor John Foust and communicate to him their concerns at 703-356-0551. There is also a web-based petition that people can participate in. The group’s message is pretty straight forward: “Artificial turf fields contain 30,000 pulverized used tires. These tires leach heavy metals and toxic chemicals into our lakes, streams and drinking water.”
The proposed field is being built directly upstream of a 6 acre lake. The lake and the streams that are part of the watershed contain fishing. In Virginia, there is no requirement to clean the effluent prior to it being drained into streams and lakes. According to Amy Stephan, a Great Falls resident, the field could dump about 20 million gallons of contaminated effluent directly into stream and lake in the next decade. "Our whole community uses well water for primary drinking water source,” she wrote to SynTurf.org.
Stephan pointed to the studies and analyses by Harvard University School of Public Health, the Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology Study, Journal of Nanoscience, US Centers for Disease Control and others that raise concern about the harmful effects of carbon black particles. “If the reports on the fields' dangers weren't already harmful enough, the news from these legitimate studies should convince even the skeptics that we need to keep carbon black, and old tire material in general as far away from our kids and watersheds as possible,” Stephan wrote.
[No. 56] Newton, Mass.: On an already pared down project, Newton agrees to a battery of tests on city’s first artificial turf fields. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. November 8, 2009. [SynTurf.org Note: for earlier reports on aspects of this story see
In 2005, Mayor David Cohen, and a developer decided that 5 acres of natural grass playing fields at the Newton South High School should be converted to artificial turf fields, because the place, owing to a decade of neglect and lack of maintenance, had poor drainage and, besides, this way the players could have many more playing hours. They took their case in June 2005 to a meeting of the School Committee. The committee okayed the idea as long as the money for it would not come from the public schools budget. The Mayor suggested that he would seek the money from Community Preservation Fund.
By October 2005, the project had begun to attract the attention of the public. The first issue of concern was whether this was a proper use of the Community Preservation Fund, which by law had to be for open space, community housing, historical preservation, and acquisition, creation and preservation of land for recreational use. The proponents argued that the project was creating and preserving land for recreational use. The opponents pointed out that the project was in effect rehabilitation of land for recreational use and under that scenario the money could not be spent because the fields had not been created or acquired originally with Community Preservation Fund.
By January-February 2006, there were other voices who opposed the project. A boisterous group of neighbors had concerns about the impact of the project on their living environment. Some objected to the risk that the project posed to the ecology of the area, pointing out also some of the geotechnical aspects of the site that had bedeviled the earlier sports fields with differential settling and hydrological woes, as the parcel was originally a peat bog.
The fiscalists objected to the price tag. And a group of individuals from the cross-section of the city objected to the project on the grounds of environmental and human health risk associated with the use of plastic fields and crumb rubber infill. A few purists believed that softball, and football and soccer should be played on natural grass.
The process within which misgivings about the project could be aired did not favor the opponents. In numerous public hearings, while the purveyors of the product, the consultants and city officials were given generous amounts of time, the opponents were largely limited to a few minutes of comments. The smattering of literature about the downside of artificial turf was no match for the well-polished presentation of the sellers, whose “studies” showed no risks. In time, this “fact” would be proven a half-truth – as well as other myths about not watering, low maintenance cost, surface temperatures, no relation to MRSA, and inertness of the infill materials. In the months prior to the groundbreaking research out of Connecticut (www.ehhi.org) there was very little that the city officials could take seriously coming from the opponents of the turf project. What the opponents turned up in way of published research was immediately dismissed as “junk science.” That many communities already had turf fields and nobody would have it if it were risky almost made the case for the proponents.
While the project in Newton was going through its slow approval paces, in the nearby community of Wayland a full-blown controversy was brewing over the conversion of the high school athletic field from grass to artificial turf, raising the potential for contamination of the nearby water wells from leachates from the turf field. That project, too, was supposed to be funded by Community Preservation Fund. Even though the Mass. Department of Revenue had indicated the money from the Fund could not be used for the project, the Town of Wayland was pushing ahead with the funding anyway.
In Newton, by the spring of 2006, three louder voices had emerged against the project: the abutters to the fields were for the most part represented by Stephen Farrell. One Jeffrey Seideman spoke on behalf of the fiscalists. The job of addressing the risk of the potential harm to the environment and human health fell on a Guive Mirfendereski, an attorney with very limited prior exposure to city politics, and his colleagues. There eventually were concerns raised by the League of Women Voters of Newton, the Green Decade Coalition and the Newton Conservators, but none took an active part in dissuading the city from going forward.
Mirfendereski wore two hats: on the one hand, he researched the funding of the proposed project and informed the public and the officials of the likely illegality of it under the Community Preservation Act. On the other hand, he researched the shortcomings of artificial turf as a product and set out to verify the claims made by the purveyors and promoters of artificial turf fields. In Newton, the latter effort gave birth to www.joepublius.com , a localized website dedicated at the time to the aspects of the Newton South field project, and later to www.SynTurf.org , a national and international forum that would serve as clearing house of information, mostly sourced from for primary sources.
The political situation in Newton would not allow the opponents to have a meaningful say in the scope and conditions of the project. The only road for calling the public’s greater attention to the health and environmental risks went through the Middlesex Superior Court. In March 2008, Mirfendereski filed suit against the city, seeking a declaration form the court that the spending of monies from the Community Preservation Fund would violate the Community Preservation Act. The case was dismissed instantly, because the proposed spending from the Community Preservation Fund was not a done deal (premature) and, anyway, such challenges to city’s action required a lawsuit brought by no less than tax taxable inhabitants of Newton (standing).
The fact of the suit garnered sufficient press interest in the subject-matter. A few outlets picked up Mirfendereski’s writings on the proposed unlawful use of Community Preservation Fund by Newton as by other municipalities. Simultaneously, the press began to pay attention to artificial turf as a product. If the funding for the turf project could be affected, Mirfendereski reasoned, perhaps the opponents of turf fields could gain sufficient leverage to affect the project’s scope and condition.
In April 2006, Jeffrey Seideman and nine others stepped forward and volunteered to form a 10-taxpayer plaintiff group for the purposes of squashing the proposed use of Community Preservation Fund for the artificial turf field at NewtonSouthHigh School. They placed their trust in Mirfendereski to see the case to the end, pro bono publico. But there was one problem: The Newton South turf field was still in a state of limbo, the city having not as yet acted on the appropriation for it from the Community Preservation Fund. The legal issue would have been whether Community Preservation Fund could be used to rehabilitate an existing natural grass playing field (with or without artificial turf) that was not originally acquired or created with Community Preservation Fund.
As fate would have it, on May 1, 2009, the City of Newton’s Board of Aldermen, unknowingly or defiantly, approved Community Preservation Fund monies for the rehabilitation of two unrelated city parks, Stearns and Pellegrini, which had not been acquired or created originally with Community Preservation Fund. The requisites of standing (10 taxpayers) and maturity (actual appropriation) being in place, on May 25, 2006, the “Newton 10” filed a complaint in Middlesex Superior Court against the city of Newton, seeking a declaration that the approved funding for Stearns-Pellegrini project violated the Community Preservation Act.
In September 2006, the Superior Court ruled against the city’s use of the Community Preservation Fund in the Stearns-Pellegrini case. The city appealed the decision and soon thereafter the Supreme Judicial Court sought the case for direct review by the state’s highest appellate division. In October 2008, the SJC ruled against the City of Newton (Seideman and others v. City of Newton, SJC-10135, 2008 WL 4668200).
By time the Seideman decision came down, the City of Newton had forsworn the use of Community Preservation Fund for the conversion of the grass fields at NewtonSouthHigh School. The Committee on Community Preservation of the Board of Aldermen, the city’s legislative organ, had told the mayor that it would not approve of the Community Preservation Fund being spent on the turf project. The city next opted to look for funds elsewhere in order to underwrite the project. To be funded partially by monies in the general revenue account, from specialized accounts, and by borrowing – finally, in December 2008, the Board of Aldermen voted 20-4 to fund the rehabilitation of playing fields at Newton South high School, to have two artificial turf fields and two natural grass fields. The unavailability of funds from the Community Preservation Fund for the project
managed to trim the scope of the 5-acre turf project to 2 fields.
The “2+2 Option,” as it came to be known satisfied Stephen Farrell, and many of the abutters, as well as many of the fiscalists, but not all who still believed the price tag for the project was way too much at a time when the city was facing a budget crunch.
Mirfendereski’s faction continued to voice its opposition to the project on the grounds of concern for the impact of the project on the environment and human health. The informational campaign about the turf had borne some fruit -- four Aldermen came around and voted against the project for actual potential concerns over the impact of the crumb rubber and other aspect of turf fields. Moreover, in January 2009, the Board of Aldermen adopted a resolution (22-0-2 absent) “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.” For the coverage of this resolution, seehttp://www.synturf.org/process.html (Item No. 19). The resolution came too late, the money was already appropriated and the Mayor showed little inclination to go along with the resolution – the city had bought the drainage system with the carpet, and the carpet with the crumb rubber infill – no substitutes allowed.
If there was going to be one more battle left in this struggle it would come at the time when the project would have had to receive permission from Newton’s Conservation Commission. This commission is charged with permitting projects or aspects of projects that touch on wetland areas. As it turned out, a very small part of the Newton South Athletic Field Renovation Project was located in the 100-feet buffer zone that separated a vegetated wetlands from the proposed field-and-track part of the project at the western end of the site. This was enough for the commission to look at the project, but not all of it – just the part that was inside the wetlands area. Even though the commission knew that the project would be impacting the underground (culverted) Meadow Brook, it only would take jurisdiction over the 100-foot border area. As long as the commission and, later, the Mass. department of Environmental Protection, considered the issues, the project could not proceed to completion within the 100-foot border area. Insignificant to the larger issue of turf fields, this was an opportunity to be seized.
The Mirfendereski faction, now consisting of the minimum number of residents and abutters, 14 in all - took their concerns to the public hearing at the Newton Conservation Commission, but within the narrow confines of the protections afforded to the environment under the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act.
The first of the two sessions before the Conservation Commission took place in January 2009. It was only then that the environmental aspects of the project were vetted, with ample time afforded to the “Newton 14” to state their case. Opponents presented written and oral testimony. Kurt Tramposch and Tom Sciacca, veterans of a similar proceeding in the nearby Town of Wayland, presented their testimony. The Commission continued the public meeting until the next month, refusing to go along with the city environmental officer’s opinion to approve and permit the project on the spot. At its second meeting on the project, in February 2009, the Conservation Commission approved the project with conditions. The vote was 4 to 2, the two opposing being Chairman Ira Wallach and Commissioner Norman Richardson. For the condition imposed on the project by Newton Conservation Commission, seehttp://www.synturf.org/newtonbrief.html (October 29, 2009).
The Conservation Commission’s conditions included the following: (a) pland to ensure crumb rubber does not migrate into the wetlands by ensuring that catch basins are inspected every 6 months for an 18-month period; (b) inspection of the vinyl screening every 6-months for a period of 18-months for rubber granules and removal thereof; (c) EPA-approved lead wipe test on the installed synthetic turf to determine the amount of lead dust or bio-availability of the lead in the specified products; (d) the synthetic turf installed shall meet or exceed the lead wipe testing standards adopted by the EPA for “bare soil in children’s play areas,” and shall be less than or equal to 400 micrograms of lead per square foot of surface area (µg/sq. ft); (d) no herbicides, pesticides, or insecticides shall be used on the fields within 100 ft buffer zone, except with the prior written permission of the Commission; (e) prior to work commencing, the city shall collect no less than three (3) grab samples of the substrate from the bordering vegetated wetland adjacent to the proposed work in the buffer zone and have the samples analyzed for the presence and concentration of heavy metals, to include: zinc, iron, manganese, barium, lead and chromium.
The Newton-14 believed that the Conservation Commission’s conditions did not go far enough in ensuring that the leachate from the fields did not harm the wetlands. Therefore, they – now called “Petitioners” appealed the decision of the Newton Conservation Commission to the Mass. Depart of Environmental Protection’s Wetland Division. On June 6, MassDEP Wetlands Division issued its Superseding Order overrode the Newton Conservation Commission’s conditions, setting forth its own conditions. Chief among these was that the “snout” catch basins be inspected and cleaned if needed be at the beginning and end of each “field season” (spring and fall), in perpetuity. Further, the city would agree to three times per year for five years (April-November) testing the leachate to the levels of Mass. Drinking Water Regulations (310 CMR 22.00), with sampling being for zinc, cadmium, chromium and lead.
The Petitioners viewed the MassDEP’s Superseding Order wanting in that not only it overrode the Newton Conservation Commission’s conditions, but also it fell short of providing a basis for monitoring the long term effect of the crumb rubber leachate from the artificial turf field and the effect of the fields’ drainage system on the South Meadow Brook. Therefore, in June 2009, the Petitioners appealed the Wetland Division’s Superseding Order of Conditions.
The case was now in the hands of the Mass. DEP’s Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution (OADR). There being no stomach for an alternative dispute resolution (mediation) or settlement, the parties were on the path to an adjudicatory hearing for October 27, 2009, before an administrative law judge. On the one side was the City of Newton, represented by a tax-payer funded law department and environmental officer and a few tax-payer funded “consultants” from the same company that was installing the fields, and taxpayer-funded Mass. DEP lawyers and experts. On the other side of the fray were the Newton 14, with no financial support whatsoever.
By the time the Newton-14 were to present their case it had become painfully obvious that they could not match the resources of the city and the state agency. In a proceeding that would have hinged on “scientific” testimony, the Newton-14 would have fallen short for two reasons:first, unlike the case in Fairfield, Connecticut, a few years back, the Petitioners did not have the financial resources to hire experts; and second, whatever the Petitioners’ experts could possibly state to the tribunal was nothing new, all that having being already published in studies. The worst of it was that the mass. DEP operated for the long term on the notion that grinding used tires and using it on artificial turf field was a beneficial use of the used tires. This policy, though not law, was assailable in view of recent revelations about the harmful and toxic nature of crumb rubber, but not in a judicial proceeding where the burden was on the Newton-14 in a setting where the judgment of an administrative agency is usually controlling.
The Newton-14 changed tack by resolving to move the posture of the case away from the hearing of “factual” evidence and the “science” to an issue that could be decided purely as a matter of statutory and/or regulatory interpretation. Key to this approach was a condition in the MassDEP’s own superseding order that had forbade the use of tires and parts of tires as fill. Another issue was that the South Meadow brook, though culverted, constituted a riverfront resource and the Newton Conservation Commission and MassDEP should have delineated it as a resource subject to protections of the wetlands law. In August 2009, the Newton-14 filed two motions for summary judgment/decision of these two issues of law.
The Newto-14 strategy now ensured that any decision from the hearing/trial by the OARD in October 2009 could be appealed further up the chain within the MassDEP and further in the courts of the Commonwealth. That meant more time would have to pass before the city and the consultants could finish the part of the project that was located in the wetland’s area. The area consisted of a few dozen yards of the track and the dozen square-feet of the soccer portion of the multipurpose field. The city must have realized that it was not helping the situation by not coming to a settlement with the Newton-14.
In early October 2009, the president of the boosters at NewtonSouthHigh School made an impromptu overture to the Newton-14 by asking a member at the street corner what it took to settle this matter. Through his good offices, the Newton-14 conveyed their conditions and ultimately a settlement emerged.
The Settlement Agreement, dated October 20, 2009, recognized MassDEP’s superseding order of conditions as the final permit of record in the case, which means that the city is obligated to MassDEP for the conditions that were placed in the superseding order of conditions – notably: (1) The City will undertake sampling for zinc, cadmium, chromium and lead 3 times during the playing season (April-November) for a minimum of five years, to the levels indicated in the Massachusetts Drinking Water Regulations (310 CMR 22.00); (2) “Snout” catch basins shall be inspected and cleaned if needed be at the beginning and end of each “field season” (spring and fall). This condition shall be in perpetuity.
Furthermore, the Settlement Agreement binds the City to the Newton Conservation Commission’s own conditions, as further amended by the agreement – notably:
(1) Newton shall inspect the trench drain and in-line catch basins every 6-months for a period of 18-months for crumb rubber granules. If crumb rubber granules are found, the crumb rubber granules will be removed;
(2) Newton shall inspect the vinyl screening on the 4’ high chain link fence in proximity of the bordering vegetated wetlands every 6-months for a period of 18-months for crumb rubber granules. If crumb rubber granules are found, these crumb rubber granules will be removed;
(3) If a significant accumulation of crumb rubber granules are found within the trench drain or at the base of the vinyl screen, or in both locations, Newton shall continue to inspect along the wetland line at 6-month periods for an additional period of 18 months to detect crumb rubber granules. If a significant accumulation of crumb rubber granules are detected, Newton shall take steps to further prevent the crumb rubber granules from reaching the wetland;
(4) Newton shall perform an EPA approved lead wipe test on the installed synthetic turf to determine the amount of lead dust or bio-availability of the lead in the specified products. The synthetic turf product installed shall meet or exceed the lead wipe testing standards adopted by the EPA for bare soil in children’s play areas;
(5) No herbicides, pesticides, or insecticides shall be used on the fields within the 100 foot buffer zone to the wetlands, pursuant to Newton’s Integrated Pest Management Policy, maintained and executed by the City of Newton’s Department of Parks and Recreation, and as may be amended from time to time;
(6) Newton shall collect no less than three (3) grab samples of the substrate from the bordering vegetated wetland adjacent to the proposed work in the buffer zone. These samples shall be analyzed by a certified laboratory for the presence and concentration of heavy metals, to include: zinc, iron, manganese, barium, lead and chromium.
In addition, the City agreed to the following that was not a part of the MassDEP superseding order or the Conservation Commission’s conditions:
(1) Newton agrees that at the future time of full replacement of the synthetic turf carpet, Newton shall consider the use of alternative in-fill material other than crumb rubber in-fill, including in-fill materials made of natural ingredients that are biodegradable which is demonstrated to have performance viability comparable to crumb rubber, if then available;
(2) The initial wipe test done of the surface of the synthetic fields shall be performed within 90 days of the issuance of the Final Decision and SOC final permit of record in this matter, without the benefit of irrigation or precipitation preceding the test by three days followed by annual wipe tests performed during the month of September for a period of five years;
(3) Newton shall collect no less than three (3) grab samples of the substrate from the bordering vegetated wetland adjacent to the proposed work in the buffer zone. These samples shall be analyzed by a certified laboratory for the presence and concentration of heavy metals, to [also] include copper, and cadmium;
(4) Newton shall test the water from the Well #1 only of the two wells used to irrigate the fields which constitute the project for the presence of metals including zinc, iron, manganese, barium, lead, chromium, copper, and cadmium. The baseline test of water from Well #1 shall be conducted within ninety (90) days after the issuance of the Final Decision and SOC final permit of record in this matter, followed by annual tests for five years following the initial test.
In return for the foregoing, the Newton-14 sought to withdraw their appeal. On October 29, 2009, the Mass. Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs accepted the Newton-14’s withdrawal of appeal and dismissed the appeal.
Now begins the task of monitoring the city’s performance under the Settlement Agreement. The text of the Settlement Agreement, basic documents, and the consolidated list of the conditions on the project are set forth in http://www.synturf.org/newtonbrief.html (October 29, 2009).
[No. 55] Woodinville, Washington: Parents for Safe Sports Fields stopped one turf field, second to follow. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. November 8, 2009. There are some last names that just coincide with a bearer’s avocation - a bricklayer named Mason, a jeweler named Goldsmith, or an activist named Block, a soccer coach, who managed to block the installation of artificial turf field at his son’s school in Woodinville, Washington. Now it seems that luck and savvy will have him and his colleagues, Parents for Safe Sports Fields ( http://www.parentsforsafesportsfields.com/ ) score another success.
In August of 2009 the City Council awarded a contract for the construction of the Woodinville Sports Field Project, to convert grass playing fields into synthetic infilled turf. Construction work was expected to begin in late 2009 and be completed by spring of 2010. But Block and his group would not hear of it. In October the faced down the City Council, arguing that the chemicals in the shredded rubber tires on synthetic fields can cause cancer. They asked that the project be delayed until there is more proof the fields are safe. Regardless, the project was on course for a beginning date of November 1.
And then - on November 3, 3009, good fortunate smiled on Block and his group – The voters elected with very wide margins four city council candidates whom Block and group had supported for their position on artificial turf. It has not been easy or inexpensive for these taxpayers to battle a taxpayer-funded bureaucracy! “We have spent a large sum on legal, toxicology and on promoting the 4 candidates we want elected,” wrote Block to SynTurf.org. “People always get the government they deserve so we’ll see what happens here,” he wrote.
[No. 54] Montgomery County, Maryland: MoCo Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition. The heating of artificial turf surfaces is a well established fact. But we still get a kick out of grass roots finding out for themselves how hot this can really get. So when we received this temp reading story for BlairHigh School we were not surprised. It came to us by way of the Parents Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland. It has a web group at http://groups.google.com/group/safe-healthy-playing-fields-coalition-?lnk=srg (called MOCO Safe Healthy Playing Fields) and keeps a blogpost at http://parentscoalitionmc.blogspot.com/search?q=turf . The Coalition “is dedicated to ensuring that athletic playing fields in Montgomery County Maryland offer a safe and healthy place for athletes of all ages.” Here is the story that came with the picture on the left: Parents Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland, “Artificial Turf: 167 degrees! We have a winner,” August 16, 2009, available at http://parentscoalitionmc.blogspot.com/search?q=turf (scroll down to item):
Artificial Turf: 167 degrees! We have a winner.
Folks, it looks like we have a winner! This measured temperature of 167.3 degrees was taken today, August 16, at the AT field at MontgomeryBlairHigh School, Montgomery County Maryland at 2:30 PM EST. The air temperature in the full sun was 93 degrees Fahrenheit.
Thanks to our reporter Kathy Michels for this stunning photo. [T]hanks also to our County Council, Board of Education and Planning Board who created this heat island in the middle of our county. Now that’s what [they] call planning!
[No. 54] Bowen Island, British Columbia: Living Bowen Coalition opposes artificial turf. The following is an excerpt from a letter published on Bowen Island Undercurrent, “Group expresses concerns about council’s decision to install artificial turf field,” June 26, 2009, available at http://www.bclocalnews.com/opinion/letters/49210442.html :
We represent many BowenIsland community members who are very concerned about council’s decision to approve the construction of a synthetic grass turf field on BowenIslandCommunitySchool grounds. This decision goes against every value of conservation and protection that so many people on Bowen expect to be upheld. At this time in history when all information available calls for visionary protection of our environment, this irreversible, destructive act is about to happen, and right in front of the children. We feel we have to act now to protest this decision and ask council to reconsider it.
Edna Thomson, Libby Beck, Brenda McLuhan, Sam Knowles, Susanne Koeplin and Emily van Lidth de Jeude
On behalf of the Living Bowen Coalition
[No. 53] Glen Ellyn, Illinois: A grass roots effort takes hold. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. May 3, 2009. Glen Ellyn is situated 23 miles west of Chicago. An affluent village, Glen Ellyn is part of Glenbard Township. Located across Glenbard West High School is Glenbard West is Duchon Field, which has been named one of the top 10 places to watch highs chool football by ESPNhttp://sports.espn.go.com/highschool/rise/football/news/story?id=3653316
and USA Today. Glenbard West also boasts Memorial Park, an 8.4-acre site.
District 87 School Board is proposing to replace a total of 5 high school athletic fields, including Duchon Field and memorial Patk, with artificial turf. Duchon Field is located in a heavily wooded residential area that has a network of small lakes and ponds that would be directly impacted by any redevelopment. These watersheds eventually flow into the East Branch of the DuPage River, a tributary of the Des Plaines River. The opposition Grass Roots for West is taking root. It established a website, http://www.grassrootsforwest.com, which provides information about the potential environmental impact of the plan on the neighborhood and surrounding ecology.The group has mounted an online petition drive as well. To contact the group, e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (630) 689-5911.
[No. 52] Seattle, Wash.: Battle brewing over turf field installations. Last year  the voters approved a levy of which $10.4 million is about to go to installation of artificial turf fields in Seattle’s a Lower Woodland #7, Lower Woodland #2, Delridge and Genesee playfield #1. With the exception of the price tag, it might have turned out a non-story but not for the fact that the turf at Genesee previously had tested positive for lead. According to a news story on KING5-TV (April 14, 2009), “some parks advocates are speaking out against the city's plan to install artificial turf,” asking for a moratorium on the new installations until the city studies the dangers. “Some critics fear the fake fields, saying they may contain lead and arsenic.” “One potential problem is crumb rubber - tiny filaments of tire rubber on the surface of the turf.It sticks on you and doesn’t easily come off.” One park advocate, Mire Latoszek, said, “There are reports of people playing on fields who come home and have little particles crumb rubber on their clothes. They can’t get it off their socks.” Another critic of turf, Mark Holland, saw no redeeming value in the city hiding behind the statement from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission last summer that children are not at risk from exposure to lead in the turf. “ They use the recent study from the Consumer Products Safety Division and this is the same organization that told us for the past 15 years that we didn’t have to worry about lead in children’s toys,” said Holland. Source:Linda Brill, “Seattle playfields entangled in turf battle,” on KING5-TV, April 14, 2009, available at http://www.king5.com/sports/stories/NW_041409WAB-aritificial-turf-KS.d55a7bd4.html .
[No. 51] San Carlos, California:Save San Carlos Parks isSynTurf.org’s Environmentalist of the Year for 2008. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. April 12, 2009. Every spring SynTurf.org recognizes an individual, or group of grassroots activists or even an idea that embodies the mission of this site that is to ward off the mindless proliferation of artificial turf fields in our communities. In 2008, the recognition of Environmentalist of the Year for 2007 went to Patrick Barnard and his Save the Park group for their effort to end the municipality’s plan to install artificial turf in Quebec’s Westmont Park (http://www.synturf.org/westmountbrief.html).
Congratulations Save San Carlos Parks - SynTurf.org’s Environmentalist of the Year for 2008.
The struggle by Save San Carlos Parks to save the natural grass playing fields from going plastic and crumb rubber has taken a few interesting evolutionary turns. The first time SynTurf.org reported on San Carlos it was in October 2007 when the school board went along 3-2 with city’s plans to install artificial turf at Heather Elementary School. The narrow vote buoyed the activists and they came out swinging even harder. They submitted a 200-plus Internet signature petition to the school board and forced it to reconsider its decision in light of having sought no community input as to the environmental and health concerns about turf fields. In December of 2007, the city tried its best to sell its plans with glossy presentations, ersatz arguments and some mocking of the oppositionists.
February 2008, the school board was ready once again to consider the turf field proposal. This time, the activists took their protest to the streets, with pickets and signs and printed T-shirts. They held a march on Thursday, February 28, 2008, along the streets and parks that stretched from Burton Park and Brittan and Greenwood Avenues to Central Middle School and later to White Oak Elementary School, where the San Carlos school district’s board was to meet on the issue. We noted at the time, “this may well be the first time that the opponents of artificial turf fields have taken to protest march, even though marches of this kind are common in favor of upkeep and preservation of parks as public land.”
On Wednesday, March 19, 2008, Save San Carlos Parks were handed a sweet hand of fate. The city manager could not reach an agreement with the city’s elementary school district on a long-term “use agreement” that could make the turf proposal go forward. The respite was not to last long, as this issue was bound to resurface. For that little time, however, the impasse nevertheless delighted Joy Papapietro, one of the activists who helped organize the march and a letter-writing campaign. “Our work is not done,” she wrote to SynTurf.org, “we will go on to help any community in San Carlos that wants to fight [the turf].”
It is once again spring and turf is back on the agenda in San Carlos. Drummed out of Heather Elementary School, it is now being considered for Highlands Park Lower Athletic Field. The activists have not sat by idly. The modest Internet campaign blog that Save San Carlos Parks had launched in 2007-2008 soon became a clearinghouse (http://grassplease.blogspot.com) of information about similar turf battles in the surrounding communities. It forum has evolved into a regional resource http://savesancarlosparks.blogspot.com and it is presently a full-fledged website with a broader mission at http://www.savesancarlosparks.org (email: SaveSanCarlosParks@yahoo.com).
Save San Carlos Parks’ next quest is to get the city mayor and council “to reject the replacement of the natural grass field at Highlands Park with artificial turf.” The matter will be before the council on Monday, April 13, 2009. As a prelude of things to come, perhaps, on Wednesday, March 18, 2009, the San Carlos Youth Advisory Council recommended that the city council not move forward with synthetic turf on the Highlands Park Lower Athletic Field. The group, which is made of middle school and high school students who offer opinions to the city council, prefers to see the money spent on less expensive projects with a broader community benefit.
Directed at the April 13 proceedings of the city council, a letter-writing campaign to the council and a petition drive are well under way to save Highland Park from faux grass. By SynTurf.org’s last count (April 9, 2009) http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?greensc1a petition drive to that effect has garnered 539 signatures supporting Save San Carlos Parks. In the meantime, a straw voting exercise of sorts has been going on the website of the San Mateo Daily (http://www.smdailyjournal.com), showing (as of April 9, 11:20 AM EST) a tally of 606 votes, with 59%to 41% running against the turf proposal. Among the reasons cited against the proposal are traffic concern (3%), health concerns (52%) and subject needs more study (4%). The proponents (41%) believe the proposal will increase the use of the fields for the community.
No matter what the outcome of the April 13 meeting, the recognition here conferred on Save San Carlos Parks is first and foremost for their effort to organize, inform the public, and articulate a position in a civil manner. A decision in their favor would be an icing on the cake. Save San Carlos Parks have made their point and in that they serve as an example for citizen advocacy campaigns. We hope many across the country would emulate their energy and style as they go ahead to make the point in fvaor of natural grass playing fields and non-synthetic playing surfaces.
According to news item in the Connecticut Post (March 2, 2009), the purpose of the one-year moratorium is so the material used in synthetic turf fields can be studied. One major objection to the fields is the use of shredded used tires as infill, the material that makes the field cushiony and allows the blades to stay upright. According to Patricia Taylor, one of the proponents of the moratorium, “These fields are simply a waste-management strategy for the disposal of shredded rubber tires. We don't need to use chemicals like pesticides on artificial fields because artificial fields are chemicals…. Parents lack basic information and guidance on what is in these fields and how to keep their children safe.” Rep. Kim Fawcett, D-Fairfield, who is a co-sponsor of the moratorium bill, stated that the measure does not aim to close any existing fields. “We’re just saying that since the attorney general funded a study and the Agricultural Experiment Station is spending the next year studying what is really in this crumb-rubber tire. Since we’re doing that it doesn’t really make sense to put any more fields in. And it’s just a temporary moratorium.” According to the Post, “Fawcett said the crumb rubber and lead may be affecting human health and possibly contaminating bodies of water, including the public drinking supply.” Source: Ken Dixon, “Moratorium on artificial turf fields urged,” in Connecticut Post, March 2, 2009, available at http://www.connpost.com/ci_11820683 .
SynTurf.org Note: The Environment Committee has until March 20 to vote on the legislation and move it along to the Senate and House. March 20 marks the arrival of spring and indeed what more appropriate statement in favor of a renewed covenant with nature, if this bill advances. SynTurf.org has two major concerns with the advancing and possibly its enactment.
First, is that it does not go far enough to ban the use of crumb rubber altogether, period. Knowing what we know of this obnoxious addition to our landscape and not trusting what we do not as yet know, the crumb rubber most go, period. Also, SynTurf.org believes that the existing turf fields ought to be ripped out and ground reclaimed for installation of natural grass fields. There is very little sense to allow this abomination to health and the environment to continue of some dubious economic argument that one should let the fields run their natural life-cycle and then be replaced. Therefore, it is the view of this publication that the Raised Senate Bill 924 is timid and the parents and activists, including EHHI and Mount Sinai testimonies, are pursuing a half-loaf at a time when they are fully entitled and should demand unapologetically the full loaf, beginning with an immediate ban on youth and adult play on turf fields (not even with “informed consent”) until the state-sponsored study of the fields is complete.
Second, any moratorium on new installation of artificial turf fields would be constitutional if it does not interfere with the existing projects and contracts already in the pipeline. The passage of the moratorium bill would have a better chance of passing constitutional muster if the legislation provided a finding of public health threat and environmental hazard by the turf fields, requiring immediate and necessary action.
[No. 48] East Harlem, NY: Meet the East Harlem Preservation organization. East Harlem Preservation (EHP) is a volunteer advocacy organization founded in 2005 to promote, preserve, and protect the neighborhood’s rich cultural, architectural and environmental history ( http://www.eastharlempreservation.org ). The EHP provides news and updates on large-scale development, displacement, synthetic turf,and other issues of public concern to residents and business owners in East Harlem/El Barrio and surrounding areas. The website and a monthly electronic newsletter are also available to help promote the work of local nonprofit cultural, educational, health, economic development, and environmental organizations. EHP is led by Marina Ortiz and may be contacted at email@example.com .
[No. 47] San Jose, Calif.: Grassroots opposition to turf fields picking up steam.SynTurf.org has learned thatTraceElementary School parents are taking their fight against the turf plans for the school to the cyberspace. The website www.TraceTigers.orgis being reconfigured as a tool to inform and advocate against the school district’s decision to place a turf field in this community. The contact for the website is firstname.lastname@example.org and it is managed by Steve Zavala, whose objection to turf was the subject of a news article that appeared earlier this month in the press (see below Item No. 45).
[No. 45] San Jose, Calif.: No turf in the Rose Garden, please! The San JoseUnifiedSchool District is about to hit a wall, finally, over its quiet and systematic replacement of natural grass playing fields with artificial turf. The venue: TraceElementary School. The opponents: the parents, who have launched an effort to “keep plastic out of the Rose Garden.” The reference is to the Rose Garden neighborhood in San Jose, a gentrified residential area that rings the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, a 5.5 acre park with thousands of rose bushes. For the Trace-PIE manifesto on turf, see http://www.rgnpa.org/pdf/Artificial%20Lawn%20Turf%20Steve%20Zavala.pdfor click here.
According to a news article in The Mercury News (January 8, 2009), be it at the school board meetings or strategy sessions at Starbucks, the parents “argue that turf's heat-absorbing properties makes it too hot to play on in extremely warm weather. They plead that turf adds yet another artificial element to a city and planet in desperate need of more, not less, natural green space. Most of all, they worry that turf will increase potentially harmful chemical exposure to their children.”
One parent, Steve Zavala, “has spent countless hours online, reading every study about turf that he can find. A few summers ago, he and his daughter walked on the synthetic field at LincolnHigh School and found it too hot for comfort.” “At first it was the heat that really bothered me,” he said, “But then I was staying up until 3 and 4 in the morning doing research, and I was shocked by how many concerns there are. This is really scary to me.” Another parent, Stephanie Taylor, is “alarmed by recent reports that plastic water and baby bottles as well as several children's toys contained harmful plastics like bisphenol A, or BPA. She's concerned that turf could ultimately prove to be just as toxic.” “It is clearly possible that further study could reveal unknown toxicity in turf and turf maintenance products as well,” she said, “Why experiment on our children?”
The State Senator Abel Maldonado, who represents Santa Cruz, Monterey, and the southeastern part of Santa Clara County, shares the parents’ concerns, particularly as to germs and bacteria left on the turf fields, because once turf is installed, there's no regulations about how to clean or disinfect it. Kids bleed, sweat and spit on turf fields during sports; dogs poop on them at night. “Blood, sweat, skin cells and other materials can remain on the turf because the fields are not washed or cleaned. It’s like playing on a giant used Band-Aid. I’m not against turf, but I want to make sure that it’s totally safe for kids. The parents at Trace have a right to raise concerns.”
[No. 44] Juniper Berry: “WARNING: Artificial surfaces could be hazardous to your health.” In June 2007, Juniper Berry published a piece by Robert Doocey, entitled “WARNING: Artificial surfaces could be hazardous to your health.” The publication is the work of the long-standing Juniper Park Civic Association (junipercivic.com), with an office in Middle Village, New York. Here is the opening paragraph from the piece: “Do you like the idea of Mayor Bloomberg using members of your family to test the safety of the artificial turf installed in New York City parks? The trouble is, the results may not be available for years, and, by then it may be too late.” After a review of the Bloomberg’s war against natural grass, the article exhorts the reader: “This is your money. This is your Parks Department. This is your city. And, most importantly, this is your health and the health of your family. So, let loose. Express your anger to the mayor at his refusal to permit independent testing of this artificial turf. Write, phone, email, or visit your elected City Council member and the Speaker, Christine Quinn. All of these people are on your payroll. They report to you. It’s time for you to direct them to protect your health and safety.” For the full text, go to http://www.junipercivic.com/juniperberryarticle.asp?nid=8 .
[No. 43] San Jose, Calif.: Parents protest school’s turf plans. According to a news report in the item in TheMercury News (November 14, 2008), recently a core group of40 parents at Trace Elementary School, an arts magnet school, let it be known that they oppose the installation of artificial turf fields at the Municipal Rose Garden across the street from school. The school, K-5 serves about 800 students. The objections to the plan focused on safety issues and the loss of grass in favor of artificial turf which, as one parent put it, “will give nothing back to the earth.” Responding to parental concerns, the director of construction for San JoseUnifiedSchool District, Steve Adamo, deflected criticism of turf fields with the slickness of a turf salesman. For more on this story, please see Mary Gottschalk, “New playing field at San Jose school prompts turf battle among parents,” in The Mercury News (Silicon Valley), November 14, 2008, available at http://www.mercurynews.com/localnewsheadlines/ci_10986780 .
The following is SynTurf.org’s take on what Adamo told and did not tell the parents. According to The Mercury News,
1. Adamo acknowledged that synthetic turf emits heat on very hot days, raising temperatures on fields as much as 10 to 20 degrees [SynTurf.org: What Adamo did not admit was the proven potential for off-gassing of harmful substances in that kind of climate, need for watering the fields to cool them down, contribution of artificial turf filed to heat island effect, and that the fields have been shown to register almost twice as high temperatures as the air temperature in a given day, and it takes only five minutes of contact exposure with a 125-degree surface to cause burns].
2. Adamo said studies have proved inconclusive so far on where the increased staph infections are coming from, and some believe locker rooms could be the source [SynTurf.org: Adamo obfuscated the issue – playing artificial turf field increases the likelihood of abrasions and burns which then can be an easy gateway fro the staph and other bacteria and pathogens to enter the body. Yes, Toto, there is a correlation].
3. It is possible to spray disinfectants on fields, he said, adding that the SJUSD has no plans to do that [SynTurf.org: Now that is one reckless public servant!]
4. Adamo said he believes artificial turf is a safer playing surface for children [Synturf.org: compare to what? Bed of nails?]. Adamo said he had no statistics on that and pointed out that “children are resilient.” [SynTurf.org: Is a child’s resilience a license to use him/her as a guinea pig? If children are resilient then why all the fuss about not playing on natural grass?]
5. Adamo told the group his ballpark guess was that the new turf will cost about $600,000 [SynTurf.org: Did Adamo say anything about lifecycle cost of turf versus grass, maintenance costs, and the cost of replacement and disposal of the turf after 8 to10 years?]
6. Adamo distributed a comparison sheet on natural and synthetic turf and asked parents to keep an open mind [SynTurf.org: And an open wallet!]
7. At the end of the hour-long exchange, Adamo said, “Take your kids to one of these schools, and let them run around and see how they like it” [SynTurf.org: O, Joy, what a great idea!]
[No. 42] Chicago, Illinois: Turf field controversy lands in court. In August 2008 the Park District approved a plan to install an artificial turf soccer field at Lincoln Park, in the northeast of the city. The proposal was not without its opponents whose concerns were ignored by several city agencies -- in a manner that is typical of the usual sort of David-versus-Goliath struggle that is waged by the grassroots activists and residents against the politicians and their patrons in the sports and business communities.
The suit alleges that the soccer field is toxic because the field’s artificial turf contains lead. The suit seeks an injunction against the construction of the turf field at the south end of the park and removal of all artificial turf from the field. The suit alleges that artificial turf can cause serious health problems for children and adults when the crumb rubber’s chemical compounds are released into the air and ground water. On environmental grounds, the suit alleges that the defendants have failed to design a drainage system that protects Lake Michigan, which will receive the drainage, discharge and runoff from the field directly and without any treatment or processing.
The complaint also alleges that the designated site immediately borders the heavily traveled lanes of Lake Shore Drive traffic, which further exposes children to the cumulative toxic effect of constantly breathing exhaust fumes from automobiles as well as polluted contaminants from factories carried by prevailing winds and deposited on the lakefront park. For a news paper account of this story, please see “Group claims controversial Lincoln Park soccer field is toxic,” in Chicago Sun-Times, October 14, 2008, available at http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/1221547,lincoln-park-soccer-101408.article .
[No. 41] Stamford, Conn.: The West Beach Park Brief. By Guive Mirfendereski, SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. September 22, 2008. After a two-day bifurcated proceeding, on September 15, 2008, the Zoning Board voted 4-1 to okay the installation of two artificial turf fields at West Beach Park. According to The Advocate, “Most board members said they were persuaded by the city's argument that there is no conclusive evidence that artificial turf fields pose a public health or environmental hazard” and besides, “grass fields are too expensive to maintain.” Among the string of officials who appeared before the Board was Dr. Johnnie Lee, the city’s health director. He said, “Based on the research available now, no one has been able to show me that there are any ill effects to the environment or the public health by the installation of artificial turf.” The gallery exploded in applause, much to the chagrin of the grassroots opponents of the project. “We are over 2,000 families strong,” said John Cote, a Stamford soccer dad. Source: Elizabeth Kim, “Board approves artificial turf fields, “in The Advocate (Stamford), September 16, 2008, available at http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/norwalkadvocate/news/ci_10475540 .
Wow!The Board’s decision was contrary to every bit of recent emerging scientific data about the risk of artificial turf fields. The Board completely ignored the precautionary principle ( http://www.synturf.org/precautionaryprinciple.html ), which holds that if all the facts are not yet in, the onus or burden of proof should rest on the proponents to show with objective data that what they propose does not or could not do harm.
In Stamford, as in many other municipalities around the country, the Board chose to go along with the faulty view that since there is no study showing definitive harm from turf then the turf must be safe, even though there are several recent tests showing potential harm from turf fields. Each of these new studies caution that moretests and dat are necessary. As a sage once said: To the one who thirsts, no drop is slight; to one hiding from light, no star bright. Translation: there is not much that an ostrich can learn when it lives with its head in the sand.
What happened at the meetings of the Zoning Board this month is a familiar scenario that repeats itself time and time again around the country: The opponents of artificial turf arrive in smaller numbers, accompanied with their notes, experts and scientific data; the proponents show up in uniforms along with parents and public officials who are hell-bent on having artificial turf fields. Then, the circus begins: first is the meaningless disclosure by the proponents that they would love grass fields if they could have them weatherproof and in immaculate conditions 24/7, but because that is not possible artificial turf is the way to go. Next comes the other part of the charade - To give an appearance of fairness, the opponents are given every opportunity to present their case – but to no avail. The proceedings almost always ends by some platitude about “we have heard both sides” and believe that artificial turf, while not the best option, is the only practical solution to our community’s needs at this time: it allows for extended playing time with very low maintenance cost. The, the ostrich pulls its head out of the sand and shakes hands with the sports lobby.
Artificial turf is big business and it is allied with a state and federal bureaucracy that sees no problem in transferring plastic and used tires from landfills to playing fields. There is money to be made. The sports lobby that is aligned with the turf industry is a formidable force in every sports-crazed community – and as the Stamford soccer dad intimated, no politician can ignore their “numbers.” So, it is easy to see how a handful of residents opposing the installation of turf in their communities always has an uphill battle – politically, financially and, yes, science-wise. It takes many more independent and peer-reviewed tests of artificial turf components, many more responsive bureaucrats and public health officials, and a good many individuals adversely affected by turf to get the message across to a tone-deaf town hall.
In Stamford, the Zoning Board reviewed and approved the fields based on the Connecticut Coastal Area Management Act, since the proposed turf fields would be less than 1,000 feet from Long Island Sound. The Board found that the artificial turf fields would not cause "unreasonable pollution" to water or air. The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Division of Aquaculture both provided statements that the crumb rubber infill is not harmful. The City of Stamford also put forth an individual who has been a consultant to an artificial turf field manufacturer, along with engineers from Milone & McBroom and Woodard & Curran firms.
At the heart of the opposition movement to the turf field project was a grassroots group called Save West Beach Park. It was founded in June 2008 by Penney Burnett, Mary Uva and Maureen Carson, whose affiliation with the Shippan Point Garden Club would have not meant anything if they did not concern themselves with the environmental issues associated with the turf project. When the news of their opposition spread, others joined the cause and the list of objections to the project grew beyond the ecological considerations – loss of park space, location of the fields, cost and, yes, effect of turf fields (and increased traffic and activity) on property values.
In their quest, Save West Beach Park went all out. On hand to support the group’s brief were a lawyer, an environmental scientist, and thermodynamics engineer, and Dr. William Crain, professor of psychology and a pioneer in alerting the public about the negatives of artificial turf fields. Tom Sciacca, and MITeducated engineer, whose research is featured on this site, testified before the Zoning Board about the thermodynamics of artificial turf fields and the attendant heat stress risks that come with playing on turf fields in hot summer months. On behalf of an intervenor, REMA Ecological Services concluded in its report to the Zoning Board: “It is our professional opinion that as designed and presented there is a reasonable likelihood of unreasonable pollution and degradation of natural resources, specifically the near-shore tidal environment.Furthermore, we have identified an alternative that if properly designed and implemented would have a lesser environmental impact to the tidal marine resources.” For the full text of the REMA analysis, click here. REMA also offered a spreadsheet entitled, “Assessment of Potential Environmental Impact of Leachate from Playing Fields with Synthetic Rubber Crumb, Extrapolating from laboratory Data.” The testimony of Sigrun Gadwa, an environmental scientist, outlined the benefits of children growing up playing on natural grass (click here).
The principals of REMA, Sigrun Gadwa and George Logan were no newcomers to the turf debate. In October 2007, their work, as summarized in this document, with its particular emphasis on the adverse ecological impact of zinc, helped defeat the proposed installation of a turf field at Fairfield Country Day School. In Fairfield, the cause of the opponents of the field project was helped immeasurably by the stinging cross-examination of the studies that turf manufacturer had offered in support of the claim that turf fields were safe.
Most important of all Save West Beach Park also had the support – albeit muted – of many parents who did not want their kids to be playing on turf fields. If there is a soft underbelly to the turf debate it is in the ranks of parents. Any grassroots effort at stopping the proliferation of artificial turf fields must first and foremost educate the parents about the dangers of artificial turf. The Biblical reference notwithstanding, in this one case, the child (and his/her coach) should not lead.
[No. 40]Montreal, Canada: Residents complain about the smell of turf as health hazard. Jeanne Mance Park is located in Montreal. According to a report by the CBC, the residents who live near the park are complaining to the city’s environment department about the park’s synthetic turf soccer field being a health hazard. “It reeks of recycled tire or rubber, and I figure if something smells this bad, it's got to be bad for your health," said Hazel Field, who lives nearby and uses the park. Canadian Broadcast Corporation, “Artificial soccer turf a health hazard, Jeanne-Mance Parks users say,” in CBC News, July 30, 2008, available at http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2008/07/30/soccer-pitch.html . Update [September 4, 2008]: The audio/video track of CBC's reporting is available at VIDEO: Gerri Barre reports. Artifical soccer turf a health hazard, Jeanne-Mance Park users say .
[No. 39]Toronto, Canada: Citizens petition to stop turf-and-dome project at Memorial Park. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. August 3, 2008. SynTurf.org has learned, the Toronto school board is exploring a proposal by North Toronto Soccer Club to pay for the “upgrade" of Memorial Park's playing field. The proposal entails the replacement of the natural grass surface with artificial turf. To make matters uglier yet, the soccer club wants to add a seasonal inflatable dome, or “bubble” over the field. With the lessons of Westmount (Quebec) in mind (see http://www.synturf.org/westmountbrief.html ),
a group of Toronto citizens have launched an on-line grassroots petition to halt this proposal. The group is called Our Home, No Dome and has a website at www.ourhomenodome.com . The organizers do not oppose the improvement of the soccer field, but oppose the installation of artificial turf and the three-storey high bubble. The website has links to the petition and other interesting material. To contact the group, write to Bob Greenfield at email@example.com .
[No. 38] Bainbridge, Washington: PlasticFieldsForNeverpetitions to ban artificial turf fields. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. July 18, 2008. PlasticFieldsForNever.org has submitted a 1,100 signature-petition to the city for a ballot measure this November to ban artificial turf fields on island’s sports fields. The group is concerned about turf’s effect on the environment. “Artificial fields are the equivalent of grinding up all your plastic shopping bags, dumping them in a city park, and letting the granules wash into Puget Sound,” Chris Van Dyk told the Kitsap Sun.
[No. 37]Stamford’s Grassfileds.org rolls out campaign against turf. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. May 1, 2008.
Stamford, Connecticut, is considering a project that will install four artificial turf fields at three venues -- WestBeach, WesthillHigh School and LionePark, for an estimated cost of $5.7 million. The opponents of the plan say that the material used in turf “smells, causes environmental contamination, lacks aesthetics and is intensely warm in summer,” according to a story in the Stamford Advocate (.Wynne Parry, “Suits seek to bury plans for synthetic fields,” in Stamford Advocate, April 30, 2008, available athttp://www.stamfordadvocate.com/localnews/ci_9102188). Two separate lawsuits have challenged the plan on technical governance grounds, which means that they allege the town has played loose with its own rules as to costing and planning board approval.
The residents opposed to the turf fields have organized a nifty website that features a plethora of relevant information and links to materials that question the health, environmental, safety and fiscal aspects of turf field mania. The website ishttp://stamford.grassfields.org/. For more information as to how you can help this grassroots effort in combating plastic fields, please contact is firstname.lastname@example.org.
This group is planning to host this month a symposium on “tire turf,” which will feature a number of prominent people in the field.
[No. 36] Morris Township, New Jersey: Make room for the turtles! SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. April 25, 2008.
What American child does not grow up hearing, if not reading, about the duck and her ducklings that stopped traffic when crossing as street in Boston, Massachusetts? The shrine to this delightful tale of priorities is celebrated in sculpture form on the grounds of the Boston Common.
Now come two protected turtles who might very well dictate what Morris can or cannot do with a 15.59 acre parcel of land in Harding Township (NJ). The town is planning on acquire the land and then spend $3.8 million from its Open Space fund to turn the land into a complex for adult leagues and commercial enterprises. For a copy of the application for funding click here. The property in question has a stream that feeds into the Great Swamp Wildlife Preserve. This is an “environmentally sensitive planning area,” and it is located in the Great Swamp Watershed, in the Highlands Planning Area (headwaters protection). The project would also involve cutting state threatened mature deciduous hardwood trees.
To combat the unnecessary despoliation of the environment, a group of Morris-area residents have established a website called PreserveHarding.com (http://www.preserveharding.com) and have instituted a petition drive (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/PreserveHarding/index.html) that opposes the transfer of the land from Harding Township to Morris Township, as well as the proposed 80-foott night lighting, artificial turf fields, public announcement system, and 9 AM to 10:30 PM seven-day per week use hours.
The opponents of the project have the U.S. Department of the Interior on their side. In March 2008, the Department's Fish and Wildlife office issued a written statement saying that the Department considerd the concerns about the adverse impact of the proposed turf fields on Harding Township's natural resources to have merit. For a copy of the letter click here.
[No. 35]Bainbridge Island, Washington: Here we go again! SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. April 25, 2008.
Last night (April 24), the Bainbridge Island School Board approved a plan to install an artificial turf field at BainbridgeHigh School. This is the culmination of a process that began almost four years ago when the Board made the decision that one day Bainbridge High would have an artificial turf field.Two years ago, Bainbridge floated a bond for field renovations, but at the time the officials were tightlipped as to what they intended to install as a playing surface.
Last December it came to light that artificial turf was indeed on the menu and practically at the exclusion any other alternative.
To combat the turf proposal a group of citizens mobilized into PlasticfieldsforNever.org ( www.plasticfieldsforNever.org), threatening a lawsuit against the city , if need be, to stop the project. Meanwhile a bond issue was approved in January 2008.
The advisory group that considers capital improvement projects under the School Board’s jurisdiction required that the field renovation project be subjected to the state’s environmental impact study (EIS) law. That requirement would have made it incumbent on the city to consider all the alternatives to renovation of the field, including natural grass. Though approved, the EIS has been sidestepped in the latest round of what can only be called as the “Bainbridge Shuffle.” The city government has issued a non-significant finding which means the EIS is no longer necessary, which means turf is in , any alternative is out.
PlasticfieldsforNever.org plans to fight this proposal, including in the courts, if need be. To find out more about this and assist in this endeavor, contact Chris Van Dyk at info@plasticfieldsforNever.org or email@example.com or call at (206) 854-6127. The opponents intend to complete their signature drive to place a measure on the ballot that would raise sales tax by a half-cent to pay for natural grass fields, while banning artificial turf on the island. This will allow the city to rotate its 15 natural grass playing fields, Van Dyk told SynTurf.org.
The Board member Patty Fielding has been quoted in the Bainbridge Review as saying
“We’ve essentially made the decision to go with artificial turf” and the Bioard has studies the available science on the issue. “Based on everything we’ve looked at we don’t see any scientific evidence of health or environmental risks,” Fielding has stated.
For the more on this story, see Chad Schuster, “Another turf war looms as opponents gird for battle,” in Bainbridge Review, April 23, 2008, available at
As a testament to the power of information, the Sunkin article moved Byrna Weir of Rochester, New York, to write this to The Citizen:
After reading Alyssa Sunkin's February article in The Citizen about an artificial turf field proposed for the Auburn Enlarged City School District, noting that a vote would occur in May, I assumed that the public would have ample time to become informed. To be well-informed is to cast a negative vote. Knowledge of research showing serious children's injuries, infectious disease and long-term illnesses, as well as environmental degradation has helped defeat artificial turf elsewhere.
Texas has artificial turf in at least 18 percent of its high school football stadiums, and an MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) infection rate among players that is 16 times higher than the estimated national average. One Austin teenage player has died of MRSA linked to the turf, while another death in Brooklyn and one in Virginia have not been verified.
How could any parent vote yes to a budget item that might kill a student?
How could a school board go ahead when a moratorium on artificial turf installation had been proposed?
How could the New York State School Boards Association be opposed to such a moratorium? Recent research on five major brands of turf, done by reputable labs, have revealed levels of carcinogenic substances that are in violation of the Department of Environmental Conservation's levels for brown fields (hazardous waste sites). No one would suggest sending kids to play on a hazardous waste site, but only a NO vote on the Auburn school budget can prevent this happening. The Citizen article ended, “...no conclusive evidence linking synthetic turf to suggested health effects like birth defects and cancer.” As Philippe Grandjean, MD, Harvard School of Public Health, said in speaking of mercury in tuna, “It is very unwise to wait until we have complete scientific truth.”
[SynTurf.org Editorial]: The narratives that are hereby made a part of a very public discussion about artificial turf are further testaments to three important points: First, any activism begins with good information and good information typically leads to activism against politicians blinded by the bling and armed with bad information; second, information that provokes action should be spread in simple and personal terms; third:grassroots action is a lot easier to mobilize than people think. Maybe not every effort to slow down or stop the proliferation of turf fields can succeed, but there is no doubt that the closer the public looks at artificial turf the lesser it likes it – in terms of its cost and its proven detrimental effect on the environment, potential health risks, replacement and disposal, heat island effect, carbon footprint, and other drawbacks. But then some also walk around with all manners of injection and implants. In the world of sports, however, there is one paradox that befuddles: If performance-enhancing drugs are looked down upon, is there any compelling reason to have synthetics for a playing field?
[No. 33] San Carlos, Calif.:Turf Plan falls victim to political squabbling. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. March 21, 2008. On Wednesday, March 19, 2008, the City Manager Mark Weiss announced that San Carlos has failing to reach an agreement with the San Carlos Elementary School District for a long-term use agreement that included the filed at Heather School. Under a plan, San Carlos was hoping to install an artificial turf field at that school.
This is by no means that death knell for artificial turf in San Carlos. While the City is giving up on renovating school fields, there is still plenty of opportunity for turf to rear its head in plans to install athletic fields at City parks and non-school sites.
The decision has nevertheless delighted Joy Papapietro, who helped organize a march and letter-writing campaign that opposed turf on health and environmental grounds.
“Our work is not done,” cautioned Papapietro in an e-mail to SynTurf.org, “we will go on to help any community in San Carlos that wants to fight [the turf].”
[No. 32] Belmont, North Carolina. Disposal of turf fields is a concern for resident.SynTurf.org, Newton, mass. March 19, 2008.Belmont is a tiny town in Gaston County, North Carolina. Here, like elsewhere, there is great demographic pressure on the town’s athletic fields. The town is considering a bond issue to pay for the installation for a turf field at South Point High School’s football stadium. While the reservation about this project is most fiscal, there is at least one lone voice seeing to alert the public about the human and environmental concerns about artificial turf. Meet one Richard Turner, who has raised the question about the disposal of turf fields at the end of their life. He has also questioned the harm that can come to athletes from breathing rubber particulates or bacteria breeding in the turf. He told The Gaston Gazette “Football should be played on grass.” See, Donny Wisor, “Turf war in Belmont, division over whether rec bond money should pay for $600,000 artificial turf at South Point,” in The Gaston Gazette, March 18, 2008, available at http://www.gastongazette.com/news/south_18325___article.html/belmont_turf.html.
[No. 31] Evesham (NJ) Update: Anti-Turf Petition Moves Ahead. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. March 17, 2008. Voters Against Synthetic Turf (“VAST”) have turned in more than 2,500 signatures on a petition that seeks a referendum on whether the town should install artificial turf fields at the Cherokee High School football stadium and Memorial Sports Complex and pay for them from Evesham's Open Space and Recreation Trust Fund. VAST needed only 1,169 valid signatures to have the petition placed before the public.
Earlier this month, a group of citizens sued the town and the judge agreed that monies from the Open Space trust fund could not be spent on a part of the project that affected land not owned entirely by the town.
The town officials are feeling the heat. Mayor Randy Brown has said the town government plans to rescind the ordinance that would have funded the project. However, VAST suspects a gimmick in the works. This rescinding of the ordinance is to render the referendum moot. All this is “about circumventing the public's will," VAST spokesperson, Karen Borden, told SynTurf.org in an e-mail.
[No. 30]San Carlos, Calif.: Update – Turf Protest Marches On. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. February 29, 2008. Yesterday, under the sunny skies of San Carlos, an impressive group of parents and children marched in protested of the proposed installation of a turf field at Heather Elementary School. By SynTurf.org’s reckoning this may well be the first time that the opponents of artificial turf fields have taken to protest march, even though marches of this kind are common in favor of upkeep and preservation of parks as “public” land.
[No. 29]San Carlos, Calif.: Parents Poised To March Against Turf. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. February 24, 2008.
San Carlos is located in California’s San Mateo County. Dubbed as “The City of Good Living,” this affluent “small town” is perched on the San Francisco Peninsula, half way between San Francisco and San Jose. Like most places in this country, population pressures are taxing the municipal planners to create greater public recreational opportunities, including athletic and playing fields.
In October 2007, the San Carlos School Board approved by a vote of 3-2 to accept the City’s offer to install artificial turf at Heather Elementary School. The Board Vice President Mark Olbert and Trustee Carrie DuBois opposed the proposal. In December 2007 the City held a number of works shops to discuss its master plan for parks, open space, buildings and other recreational facilities. One of the items in the master plan has to do with installation of artificial turf fields where there is now natural grass fields.
To many of San Carlos’28,000 inhabitants, synthetic turf is non-starter. After all, the City touts its leadership position in Green initiatives dealing with climate protection and all geographical levels. See http://www.ci.san-carlos.ca.us/gov/depts/cm/green_programs_n_climate_protection/default.asp. It should be no surprise that a group of San Carlos parents and other residents should organize to protest the proposed installation of an artificial turf field at the Heather Elementary School.
The San Mateo Daily News reports that a march will be held on Thursday, February 28, 2008, from Burton Park and from Brittan and Greenwood avenues to Central Middle School, where the San Carlos School District's board meeting will be looking at the proposed project. The meeting is still scheduled to begin at 4 PM, but the venue has changed from White Oak Elementary School. For more on this story, see Mark Abramson, “Parents plan march against artificial turf: San Carlos group wants to keep school field natural,” in San Mateo Daily News, February 24, 2008, available at
Joy Papapietro and about 200 people have signed a petition to force the School Board to reconsider its hasty decision to go turf, not seeking greater community input as to the environmental and health concerns about turf fields. “We just believe it is an elementary school, not an athletic field," DuBois has told San Mateo Daily News, adding that artificial turf does not make sense at elementary schools.
[No. 28]Evesham, NJ: Turf is about to hit the fan in Evesham Township. By Guive Mirfendereski, SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. February 23, 2008.
Most of us think of New Jersey as the corridor along Interstate 95 with its industrial (and mostly chemical) complexes. It should come as no surprise therefore to see a group of well-meaning but misguided folk decide to tarp over Evesham Township’s athletic playing fields with artificial turf. Hey(!), what the heck, didn’t the Second Circuit decide the other day that the Agent Orange that we sprayed by the hundreds of tons over North Vietnam was about as benign as Tang?! Never-mind the Vietnamese that got affected by it, there are US veterans who have been complaining about its adverse effect on them for decades, but to no avail. So what if, now, our kids should wallow in grass made of plastic blades that are held up with loose and free-floating crumb rubber made of ground up used tires that contain heavy metals and other harmful substances! This is America, after all, friend and foe, the buyer beware!
Evesham, New Jersey, is a township of some 50,000 people located southeast of Philadelphia, across from the Delaware River. The general impression about this place is that it is an elegant and secluded community nestled among many clusters of mature trees, aerated ponds and abundant open space that extends beyond the yards of practically every home . The place is a part of our national heritage, a township that dates back to the 1600’s. Today, it seems like it has been taken over by a band of well-meaning but ignorant individuals who think that the children of this township ought to play in artificial turf. Let’s face it: The place is still within just moments to major roadways, Routes 70, 73, 295 and the New Jersey turnpike and, true to form of any community along I-95, maybe the place is destined to become another used-tire dump.
On February 19, 2008, the Evesham Township Council, after a three-hour meeting, vote of 4-1 to approve a bond ordinance for $3.1 million to build two artificial turf fields, one at the Cherokee High School football stadium and the other on Memorial Sports Complex on Tueckerton Road. All funding for the project – that is, the bond: principal and interest -- would come from Evesham's Open Space and Recreation Trust Fund. The sole hold out was Debbie Sarcone. It certainly is worth investigating if the intent of the framers who set up that trust fund was to pay for artificial turf fields. SynTurf.org doubts that very much. Maybe (but very unlileky) a pro bono local lawyer would take up that issue in the public interest.
This is not the first time that this project has been up for public approval. Back in November 2006 voters overwhelmingly defeated a ballot question that called for the installation of synthetic turf. That issue involved$5.8 million in taxes to install turf fields the Lenape Regional High School District’s four high schools.So, it seems, the project keeps coming back like a bad penny.
Judging from the crowd of more than 150 people who attended the Township Council’s meeting, many of whom spoke against the project, there is a significant groundswell of grassroots opposition to this project and it comes from a number of angles. The cost of the project is exorbitant and the taxes will rise to pay for it. Even if taxes were not to rise, the money that is collected already for the Trust will not go to the other worthwhile community projects.The cost of the project is exorbitant; taxes will rise to pay for it. Many do not like the idea of grass fields being replaced with polygrass and crumb rubber. Some believe that the leachates, migration of crumb and off-gassing of the fields's VOC's will pose environmental and health risks. And many object to the installation of the fields in their neighborhoods because of the increased human activity that comes with such fields – that means more traffic, lights, pollution, debris, heat island effect, no-pets policy, and overall diminution of property values.
One who spoke against the project at the Council’s meeting was David Thompson, who said,“This whole deal stinks. We don’t need this. We don’t want this.” In the many communities where the public has had a chance to look closely at artificial turf they have found it less and less attractive.
The most organized in this oppositionist camp is Voters Against Synthetic Turf http://votersagainstsyntheticturf.blogspot.com), whose Karen A. Borden and David J. Silver may well be able to gather the necessary signatures to put the Township Council’s decision to a referendum. In order to recall the bond ordinance and put it to a public vote, they have 20 days hence [until March 10, 2008] to get 15 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the last election for state Assembly to sign a petition stating they favor such a referendum. In the span of just five days the group claims to have collected 400 signatures. They need a total s of 1,100 signatures in order to force a referendum on the issue. This group deserves your support and you can contact it at firstname.lastname@example.org. The sources consulted for this story include the various articles by Todd McHale of Burlington County News, including “Turf plan foes say put issue to a vote,” in Burlington County News, February 21, 2008, available at http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/112-02212008-1491395.html.
[No. 27] Longmeadow, Mass. Turf flies in Longmeadow. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. January 30, 2008.
Longmeadow is located in the western Massachsuetts on the Connectocut River. Located south of Springfield, Mass. and20 miles north of Hatford, Conn. Longmeadow is 3 mile slong and 2.5 miles wide, with 30 percent of its area being permanent open space. Its wildlife includes deer, beaver, wild turkeys, foxes, and eagles. Of late a new specie of donkey has been spotted on the landscape: It is in the form of a craven sports lobby that seeks to convert a natural grass field at the Longmeadow High School into a multi-sport complex covered in aritficial turf. The school does not need this synthetic turf field to excel in sports, as many of its teams are ranked very high on the statewide acheivement chart. While alum Kathryn (“Kat”) Bridget Moynahan (of the Tom Brady connection) may have not played on the field, SynTurf.org knows that one Jay “Cakeboy” Heaps,aka John F. Heaps IV, did and did well enough to become a defenseman for the New England Revolution soccer team.
On Wednesday, January 23, 2008, the Longmeadow Community Preservation Committee held a public hearing to discuss the merits of Synthetic Turf Plan. Click here for the plan.
Bill Ravanesi does not favor the installation of artificial turf at the high school and is opposed also to the spending of Community Preservation Act (“CPA”) funds for the project. He used his allotted 4 minutes of time to draw attention to three salient points:
(1) Impropriety of spending CPA money to rehabilitate recreational land that was not created or acquired originally with CPA money. The law forbids this in plain and clear language.
(2) Health and environmental risks associated with the use of crumb rubber on artificial turf fields. He stated, “While manufacturers claim the fields are safe, the potential health effects of exposure to these chemicals - endocrine disruption, neurological impairment and cancer – can take years to develop. Without long term field testing, no one is in a position to say the exposure is harmless, particularly in children.”
(3) Availability of other options for addressing playing field needs.
The bulk of the hearing however went to the proponents of the plan, who have hitched their wagon to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a quartet of slick industry executives who use power point presentations and glossy handbooks to peddle artificial turf to cash-strapped municipalities as an ultimate “environment friendly” solution for playing field woes. The officials and unsuspecting public fall for the gimmick every time, until they awake to realize that this product is not a horse but a donkey.If everyone in in a hurry to get this deal closed is because the more time the public has to learn about turf the less attractive it begins to look.
The Community Preservation Committee has scheduled a hearing on the project for February 6, 2008.
[No. 26] Ridgefield, Conn. gears up for “No” vote on turf. A group of resident sin Ridgefield, Conn. have set up a website in an effort to get the word out in the community on the risks associated with artificial turf. According to the its e-mail to SynTurf.org, the group intends to build greater “awareness on this public health issue.” Ridgefield will be holding a referendum on February 26, 2008, on new artificial turf fields for the town. The group’s website is www.grassfields.org. Contact email@example.com learn more about how you can help the group achieve its objectives. For the background on this story, see below at Item No. 24.
[No. 25] Nicollet Island, Minn.: Turf in a historic setting?! By Guive Mirfendereski, SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. January 18, 2008.
Arguably the only inhabited island in the Mississippi River, Nicollet Island is north of downtown Minneapolis. Its 48 or so acres are often described today as supporting a bucolic mood, but the fact is that Nicollet had been once one of the rougher parts of Minneapolis and St. Paul, dominated by grain mills and rail yards. Today, the island’s northern section is residential, its midriff is commercial and the southern part is industrial.
But by its age, Nicollet is also home to some 43 houses from the 19th century, with many architectural styles, that date from the 1860's to the 1890's. Mostly located in the upper part of the island, among the historic homes are 22 restored Victorian-era houses. Inhabited by some 150 people, the island further boasts acres of parkland and also trails for jogging, biking, and walking. The Pavillion and the Bell of Two Friends, a gift from the Japanese city of Ibaraki, are located on the south side of the island. To learn more about Nicollet Island visithttp://fieldguide.fmr.org/site_detail.php?site_id=120.
One of the enduring institutions on Nicollet is DeLaSalle High School, a creation of the Archbishop John Ireland that dates to October 1900, when it opened its doors to pupils of all socio-economic strata. Today, the Brothers of the Christian Schools, more commonly known as the Christian Brothers, manage the institution. The premises of the school are located in the Grove Street district. It is familiar scenario in most parts of the country: the expansion of sports facilities by schools often rubbing up against resdiential woes and worries, which can include environmental impact and quality of life issues, property values, peace and quiet, health concerns, and degradation of historical and natural resources. For the past two years, plan by DeLaSalle to build a 750-seat stadium on municipal land near the school has met with stiff oppostion by a number of residents and civic groups. Supported byMinneapolis Park and Recreation Board, in March 2006, the City council granted permission for the plan. However, the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission opposed the plan, fearing that the 140-year old street would be destroyed in the process. The City council president however voted to overrule the Preservation Commission’s objection to the plan. The value of the public parkland involved is about $2 million, which DeLaSalle would like to have for free. On October 16, 2007, the celebrants of the plan assembled at L.L. Gray Gym for a ceremonial groundbreaking of the school’s very first home field for football and soccer. Many of the municipal officials who saw the project through to permitting were in attendance. One benefactor, also DeLaSalle graduate like many of the other actors in this scenario, offered $3 million toward the project. While the officials stepped outside to break ground, the students watched on telecast screens. To top the festivities, the school was treated to cupcakes decorated with small soccer balls and footballs. Meanwhile there are no less than three lawsuits pending against the project. Three civic organizations – Friends of the Riverfront, National Trust for Historical Preservation and the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota – are asking that the City of Minneapolis and DeLaSalle comply with state law and explore alternatives before destroying natural and/or historic resources. More and detailed infromation on the suits is available at www.ourbeautifulriver.org. DeLaSalle’s original plan provided for natural grass fields. But now, SynTurf.org has learned, the school is returning to the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission in order to get permission to install artificial turf instead. There certainly is a strong policy preference not to allow turf in historical venues. Recently, the National Park Service nixed plans for Alexandria, Va., to install artificial turf fields at Jones Point Park. For details see http://www.synturf.org/sayno.html (Item No. 08). But then when shortsighted and unscrupulous developers and public officials went ahead and demolished acres upon acres of the historic Walden Woods in Concord, Mass. for the sake of athletic fields, which will include several artificial turf fields, the state regulatory agency stood by despite public request for protection of this historic resource.For details, see Friends of Thoreau Country athttp://www.friendsofthoreaucountry.org.
When it comes to DeLaSalle's decision to go with artificial turf -- is it an afterthought or could it be that the omission from the original plan was deliberate in order to avoid greater opposition to the plan on health and environmental grounds? Regardless, if Friends of Riverfront and its allies have any say in it, the school is expected to have yet another tough fight on its hands before it can ever fill the stands.
[No. 24] Turf talk is back in Ridgefield, CT. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass.January 11, 2008. Ridgefield is a twon in Connecticut’s Faorfield County, in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. It has some 28 palying fiels, two of which are artifcialt turf fields. Apparently that is not enough for the hyperactive sports lobby that, if given its preference, would turn more and more of this setting into artifcial turf. In 2005-06 the Parks & Rec Department in alliance with the sports lobby began pushing hard for a bond measure to finance the reconstruction of the East Ridge (II) field complex (aka, Onalfo filed), which called for instllation of arttifcial turf fields. At the time the cost of the fields alone were estimated at $2.1 million. In the May 2007 referendum residents of Ridgefield defeated the bond measure that was supposed to have financed this project. Like a bad penny, the Onalfo artificial turf project is back in circulation. The proponents of the project have petitioned Town Hall to approve the project with the hope that eventually a Town Meeting would pass on the financing, thereby bypassing another referendum on the matter. On January 9, 2008, the Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen held a joint public hearing on the project whose implementation will require a $1.4 million bond measure. Regardless of how Finance or Selectmen come down on the project, the bond measure will be before the voters on or about February 26, 2008. Like the last referendum, the present measure will no doubt raise serious questions about financial hardship to townspeople, who ultimately pay for the project. In addition, this time around the discussion will focus on the environmental health implications of artificial turf as a product and its mindless proliferation.
Last summer Environment and Human Health, Inc. (www.ehhi.org) released a toxicological report on the health and environmental consequences of the leachates, off-gassing and particulates that emanate from artificial turf fields, in particular the crumb rubber infill that is made of shredded used tires and are loose on the surface of the playing field. Since that report, the Connecticut attorney-general has called for a cautious approach to installation of turf fields and has asked for further study of the field’s potential harm to health and environment. Over the boarder from Ridgefield, in New York the legislature is considering a bill that will put a moratorium on the installation of the fields until the health risks associated with them can be studied, requiring all the same that a site-specific environmental impact assessment precede any installation of a turf fields.
In Ridgefield, the opposition to turf fields is in its nascent stage, but it is expected to become more vocal when concerned citizens like Elizabeth Butler set out to educate the public about the downside of turf, debunking some of the very polished myths that the purveyors of turf have managed to propagate in a market that they had had to themselves for far too long. "I say,” Butler told Susan Tuz of The News-Times, “let us follow the state's lead on this and see what it comes back with as results of a study. Then we can say, 'Let's put the field in' or 'Let's not.' Let's be smart about this." To read more abut this story, see Jenny Cox, “Battle resumes Wednesday,” in Ridgefield Press, January 3, 2008, p. 1A; Jenny Cox, Soccer field: Public Hearing Wednesday on artificial turf,” in Ridgefield Press, January 7, 2008, available at http://www.acorn-online.com/news/exec/search.cgi?action=search&page=2&perpage=10&template=articleLists/ridgefield.html&categoryNums=86&includeSubcats=0; Susan Tuz, “Onalfo Filed hearing set for Wednesday,” in The News-Times, January 8, 2008, available at http://www.newstimes.com/ci_7910352 . The town Charter is available at http://www.ridgefieldct.org/content/42/66/default.aspx (sections 3-5 and 10-4 and 10-6, among others, speak to the petition/referendum aspects of the issue).
If you would like to become active in opposing the project, let SynTurf.org know and we will be happy to put you in touch with other concerned folks.
[No. 23] Bainbridge Island (Washington) activist threatens lawsuit over artificial turf. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. January 4, 2008. Bainbridge Island is a city located on an island of the same name within the Central Puget Sound Basin, east of the Kitsap Peninsula and west of the City of Seattle. The island is five miles wide and ten miles long.
It is worth noting, SynTurf.org’s early research into toxicity of crumb rubber benefited from the information contained in an article by Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D., an Extension Horticulturist and Associate Professor at the Puyallup Research and Extension Center at Washington State University. The article was entitled "Myth of Rubberized Landscapes,” and is available at her website at http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/~Linda%20Chalker-Scott/Horticultural%20Myths_files/Myths/Rubber%20mulch.pdf. On SynTurf.org, the item can be found at http://www.synturf.org/crumbrubber.html (Item No. 04). In an e-mail to Dr. Chalker-Scott, the Managing Editor SynTurf.org asked if the same conclusion about rubber mulch could extend to the use of rubber crumb in synthetic turf fields. Dr. Chalker-Scott responded in the affirmative, as the base product (recycled tires) for rubber crumb in synthetic turf is the same as in rubber mulch.
Dr. Chalker-Scott responded in the affirmative, as the base product (recycled tires) for rubber crumb in synthetic turf is the same as in rubber mulch.
[No. 22] Maplewood, NJ residents submit anti-turf petition. SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. December 17, 2007.Updated on December 28, 2007.TodayMaplewoodvotes.org submitted 960 signatures on a petition against a bond that would finance the installation of artificial turf fields in Maplewood, New Jersey. The number of signatures required for certification of the petition is 583. minimum that is required for certification of the petition. If certified, the town must either rescind the ordinance or put it up for a referendum.
The text of the petition reads:
“We, the undersigned registered voters in Maplewood, New Jersey oppose Maplewood Ordinance 2528-07, approved by the Maplewood Township Committee on November 20, 2007, authorizing the issuance of $2,850,000 in bonds to finance part of the expense of proposed construction at DeHart Park including the installation of synthetic turf fields.Pursuant to NJSA 40:49-27, we hereby petition the Maplewood Township Committee to put the question of incurring this indebtedness to a referendum of Maplewood voters.”
“We exceeded our minimum by 65%, despite having to reach out to residents in the middle of the holiday season and working around two snow storms,” wrote Bill Viqueira of Maplewoodvotes.org. in an e-mail to SynTurf.org.
Maplewoodvotes.org is spearheading the drive to overturn the town’s decision to issue a $2.8 million bond for purposes of constructing DeHart Park, including synthetic turf fields. The decision to bond the project was decided by Township Committee on November 20, 2007, even though in April 2006 the town’s Environmental Committee voted down the project and advised the town not to proceed with artificial turf at the site. On January 1, 2007, the town will be voting on another $1.4 million in additional monies for the project. To find out how you can help Maplewoodvotes.org in its efforts to save the environment, please visit http://www.maplewoodvotes.org/index.html or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more on this story, see the following: http://www.localsource.com/articles/2007/12/06/maplewood/local_news/doc4758339b18f03652305475.txt;
Update: December 28, 2007. On December 26, 2007, the Maplewood Township's Clerk certified the petition. The Clerk will advise the Essex County Clerk on a possible date for the ballot question once she has discussed the matter with the Township Committee and the Township Attorney.
[No. 21] New York City Council holds hearing on Artificial Turf. SynTurf.org, Newton. December 16, 2007. In the morning of December 13, 2007, New York City Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee held an oversight hearing on the use of artificial turf in city parks. The Committee is chaired by Helen D. Foster, a Democrat from the Bronx.
According to the briefing paper that was prepared by the Committee’s staff, the hearing was to examine the relative merits of using artificial compared to natural turf and when and how Department of Parks and Recreation would look into if there are adverse health and environmental effects by using artificial turf.
The Committee invited a variety of interested parties to participate in the hearing. The list of invitees included representatives of the Departments of Parks and Recreation, representatives of Friends of Columbus Park, Prospect Park Alliance, FieldTurf Inc., Center for Climate Systems Research, The Juniper Park Civic Association, Healthy Child Healthy World, New Yorkers for Parks, elected officials, athletic organizations and other concerned community groups. The other attendees also included Joel Kupferman from New York’s enviornlaw.org (http://www.nyenvirolaw.org) and Geoffrey Croft of New York City Park Advocates (http://nycparkadvocates.org), who testified at the hearing. NYC Parks Advocates is in a relentless pursuit of infroming the public about the disappearance of the grass playing fields in the New York City area.
Following a brief explanation of the various forms of constructing playing fields, the Briefing Paper defended the use of artificial turf fields as a necessary complement to New York City’s landscape as a matter of durability and playability of fields. The Briefing Paper, however, could not ignore the recent clamor about health and environmental implications of artificial turf:
“The use of artificial turf has raised some long-term environmental and health concerns not only in New York City, but in other regions throughout the United States, as well.Although artificial turf offers all-weather playability and lower maintenance costs than natural turf, it increases surface temperatures dramatically, not only contributing to global warming and the local heat island effect by absorbing sunlight and emitting heat, but possibly affecting the health of children using the fields.Furthermore, removing grass takes away habitats that serve birds and plant life in the city as well.”
The Briefing Paper acknowledged the findings of the Crain-Zhang toxicology test of crumb rubber, which found harmful substances far above safety standards set by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, including a concentration of highly carcinogenic benzo(a)pyrene that was found to be more than eight times above acceptable soil levels. Yet the Briefing Paper seemed to dismiss this study on the grounds that “the study did not determine if the chemicals could be absorbed into the body.”
The Brief paper also acknowledgedthat “further testing of artificial turf to determine whether there are any adverse health effects has become an important issue with concerned communities who have children/athletes using artificial fields.” The Briefing Paper noted the City’s denial of requests for further testing of the crumb rubber on its fields even though the funding for such testing has beeb secured by researchers indeonet of the City. “Questions still remain,” stated the Briefing Paper.
According to one source who attended the meeting, the comments by the turf industry representatives were dismissed of the concerns about the health and environmental implications of artificial turf. According to a source at www.maplewoodvotes.org, the two NYC offices that seem to favor the turf fields are the Department of Health, which insists they are safe, and Department of Parks and Recreation that is in the business of increasing and maintaining the inventory of the city’s playing fields. According to NYC Parks Advocates, since 1997 the city has installed 77 artificial turf fields, with some 23 additional ones in planning stages. “To make matters worse,” Croft testified, “DPR has also removed more than 47 former natural turf fields and replaced them [with] artificial turf. They are in the process of removing many more.” As of this writing no result has been reported from the hearing. For the pre-hearing coverage of the event, see Patrick Arden, “Toxic turf concerns get Council hearing,” in Metro USA, NY, December 13, 2007, available at http://ny.metro.us/metro/local/article/Toxic_turf_concerns_get_Council_hearing/11086.html.
The other participants included the Riverkeeper, National Resources Defense Council, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, and Citizens for a Green Riverside Park.They equally expressed deep concern about the City’s plans to continue installing artificial turf, as many called for a moratorium on new installations until further research into a health risks of turf fields. William Crain, Professor of Psychology at The City College of New York and President of Citizens for a Green Riverside Park is an old hand at the struggle to keep the parks natural grass. He believes that children benefit from rich contact with nature. So when the New York City Park Department planned in 2004 to replace four acres of natural soil and grass fields in Riverside Park with synthetic turf, he became livid. He asked several local residents, including members of the West Side Green Party, to help try to get the Parks Department to change its mind. They wrote letters to officials, held forums and rallies, and gathered over 600 signatures on a petition, but to no avail.
In the past two years however the discussion about artificial turf has moved past the therapeutic advantages of natural settings and playing in grass. In part thanks to Crain himself and several other researchers, the science has unveiled some disturbing facts about actual and potential toxicity, carcinogenicity and other harmful aspects of the ingredients of artificial turf fields.In his testimony Crain outlined the recent findings, particularly with respect to environmental and health dangers of crumb rubber (shredded used tires).
“I hope research eventually shows that the granules are safe,” Crain wrote to the Committee, “[I]n the mean time, I recommend a moratorium on the installation of new synthetic fields.” Regardless of the result of eventual toxicological tests, he hoped people “consider the importance of natural soil and grass for children’s emotional and cognitive development.” For Crain’s written testimony [“Synthetic Turf:Its Potential Impact on Children”] in its entirety click here.
Updates since original publication on December 16, 2007: January 18, 2008.
[No. 20] In Nyack, the turf is dead for now!Newton, SynTurf.org. December 12, 2007. Yesterday, voters in Nyack, New York, defeated a bond referendum which contained $millions for artificial turf playing fields. With a 62% versus 48% overall tally, in each of the four districts – Valley Cottage, Upper Nyack, Hilltop and Depew – the $16.5 million measure lost. Check here for the results. http://www.aninconvenientturf.com/. While this result rewards the hard work of many who opposed the artificial fields – especially www.aninconvenientturf.com -- it is by no means the end for turf. One must presume that the fiscal and other concerns helped achieve the outcome. In due course, a combination of private sector and public sector funding may end up still financing an artificial turf field or two in the school district. The public education undertaken by www.aninconvenientturf.com may need to continue until the idea of artificial turf becomes in itself least desirable of all options in the community.
[No. 19] Delaware Riverkeeper slams artificial turf on cost and other issues! October 16, 2007. In a letter addressed to the Radnor Township [Pennsylvania] School Board, Delaware Riverkeeper (www.delawareriverkeeper.org) sought to dispel the myth associated with installation of artificial turf playing field at a middle school in the town. The letter pointed out, among other things, artificial turf costs excessively more than natural grass under every cost scenario applicable to the situation, and the environmental, educational and social affects of artificial turf could not be justified. See the text of the letter at http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/newsresources/factsheet.asp?ID=53 (October 16, 2007).
DelawareRiverkeeper.org has a very well informed Fact Sheet on Artificial/Synthetic Turf. It can be accessed at http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/newsresources/factsheet.asp?ID=50 (September 9, 2007). It discusses the actual and potential adverse impact of artificial turf fields with regard to stormwater considerations, water quality issues (leachate and discharge containing harmful particulates and substances), heat island effect, and costs in dollars and cents terms.
From a cost standpoint, Fact Sheet states: “It is generally agreed that artificial turf costs more to install than natural grass, while natural grass costs more to maintain.Installation and maintenance costs for each must be assessed on a case by case basis depending on site specific conditions.But generally speaking, when the installation and maintenance costs of artificial turf are assessed for the life span of the turf, particularly when the cost of disposal is added, the cost of installing and maintaining natural grass is far less.The guaranteed life and/or lifespan of artificial turf is 8 to 10 years.Some attempt to claim a longer life in order to assert a lower annual cost.” Footnotes omitted.
The comparative cost figures for artificial turf and natural grass as set forth in Delaware Riverkeeper.org’s Fact Sheet:
Cost of disposal: turfunknown (significant/hazardous waste)v.natural grass$0
Av. annual cost for8 yrs:turf$106,000v.natural grass$74,500
Av. annual cost for 10 yrs:turf$86,000v.natural grass$68,000
Av. annual cost for 15 yrs:turf$59,333v.natural grass$59,333
Per Facts about Artificial Turf and natural Grass (Turfgrass Resource Center):
Cost of construction and maintenance per sq. ft.: turf$7.80-$10.75v. natural grass$6.50-$7.95 (with high quality soil amendments), or $2.50-$5.25 (with native soils)
Cost of disposal per sq. ft.:turf $1.75-$2.25v. natural grass$0
Springfield College case study installation and maintenance: turf &105,000v. natural grass$78,000
Av. annual cost for 8 yrs(without disposal cost): turf 800,000 install and annual maintenance of $5,000 v. natural grass $400,000 and $28,000, respectively
Av. annual cost for 10 yrs (without disposal cost): turf $85,000v. natural grass $68,000
Av. annual cost for 25 yrs (without disposal cost): turf$58,377v. natural turf$54,666
Per A Guide to Synthetic and Natural Turfgrass for Sports Fields:
Cost of installation per sq. ft.: turf7.80-$10.75v. natural grass$2.50-$5.25 (if done with native soils), $3.50-$5.25 (if done with combination of native soils and sand),$6.50-$7.95 (if done with sand drainage)
Annual maintenance:turf $5,000-$25,000v. natural grass $4,000-$11,000 (per the case studies provided)
Disposal per sq. ft. (exclusive of transportation and landfill surcharges for environmentally controlled products):turf$1.75-$2.25 v. natural grass$0.
[No. 18] Maplewood, New Jersey. December 8, 2007. Maplewoodvotes.org is spearheading a citizens’ petition drive calling for a referendum on the townships’ decision to issue a $2.8 million bond for purposes of constructing DeHart Park, including synthetic turf fields. The decision to bond the project was decided by Township Committee on November 20, 2007, even though in April 2006 the town’s Environmental Committee voted down the project and advised the town not to proceed with artificial turf at the site. On January 1, 2007, the town will be voting on another $1.4 million in additional monies for the project. To find out how you can help Maplewoodvotes.org in its efforts to save the environment, please visit http://www.maplewoodvotes.org/index.html or contact email@example.com. To read more on this story, please see news article at http://www.localsource.com/articles/2007/12/06/maplewood/local_news/doc4758339b18f03652305475.txt.
[No. 17] New Jersey environmentalists question spending “Green Acres” money on turf. November 23, 2007. According to NorthJersey.com, environmentalists are questioning why state officials are letting towns pay for synthetic turf fields with "Green Acres" funds. One such person is Dee Ann Ipp, a Teaneck resident, who told NorthJersey.com that many voters would be upset to learn they supported an open space fund "in which millions of dollars can be spent on something that isn't green at all." Source: Colleen Diskin, “Critics worry about artificial turf’s impact on ecosystem,” in The Record, northern New Jersey, November 23, 2007, available at http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkzJmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MjI0OTg5JnlyaXJ5N2Y3MTdmN3ZxZWVFRXl5Mg.
In New Jersey and other parts of the country a large number of the turf projects have been or are being financed, in whole or in part, by the so-called “green acres program,” “legacy fund,” “conservation fund,” “community preservation fund,” or “open space program,” to name a few. It is highly doubtful that the framers of the legislation that established the funds intended it to be used for artificial turf. Because the funds are raised under revenue or tax laws, the letter of the law generally is interpreted strictly and any ambiguity is resolved against the party wishing to expand the meaning of the law. In Newton and Wayland Massachusetts citizens have gone to court to stop the municipality from using inappropriate funds for turf projects.
[ No. 16] Howard and Anne Arundel counties, Maryland. The officials in two Maryland counties would like to spend some $7 million form the Open Space Program to install artificial turf fields. The funds in the Open Space Program, which is administered by the state Department of Natural Resources, is funded from a pool created by a 0.5 percent tax on real-estate transfers. The fund is intended to preserve and develop parklands and other “natural” open space settings. The fund is not for making the parks safe or easier to maintain, as laudable as those goals may be. The fund is supposed to prevent the open spaces in Maryland to vanish in the face of sprawl and over-development.
In 2007, Anne Arundel officials intend to add artificial-turf fields at 11 of the county's 12 public high schools. At the other one, Broadneck High School in Annapolis state money would be spent to reimburse the booster club for a $685,000 field it had paid to install a turf field. So far the opposition to this scheme has been anemic, including among the environmentalists who should be up in arms about turning acres of the landscape to plastic grass and loose used-tire crumb rubber granulates on the fields. At least Dru Schmidt-Perkins of the group 1,000 Friends of Maryland seems to have his priority straight: "This is not our first, most ideal use of the moneys; there's so much highly valued environmental land that's at risk right now….We first and foremost like to see money being used for that." Source: David A. Fahrenthold, “Wide-Open, Um, Plastic Spaces in Md.: Funds for Parklands Eyed for Fake Turf,” in Washington Post, November 23, 2007, page A01, available at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/22/AR2007112201489.html. Woe to the self-styled guardians and stewards of the environment in Maryland.Know you nothing of the carcinogenic and other health dangers of crumb rubber, heat island effect, carbon footprint, expensive maintenance and surface replacement costs, and athletic injury and infection risks associated with artificial turf?
[No. 15] Nyack, New York.Vote "No" on December 11! On December 11, 2007, the voters in Nyack School District will be deciding on a $16.5-million bond referendum, of which some $4 million will be spent on installing artificial turf fields. In October, legislation was introduced in Albany calling for a moratorium on artificial turf fields until the health and environmental risks of this controversial product can be studied. A couple of communities in New York have called off their earlier decision to go ahead with artificial turf projects and one recently postponed a scheduled turf-bond referendum. In communities in California, Massachusetts and Connecticut some school districts outright voted down the artificial turf projects due to unresolved questions about its impact on health and the environment. From a fiscal point of view alone, if this measure passes, Nyack taxpayers will be paying for this project for many decades. Not only the cost of installing a singe field is exorbitant, but also every 8-to-10 years the taxpayers will have to fork over $500,000 as well to replace the carpet on a single field. For more information on the grassroots effort to defeat the turf-bond referendum -- and how you can help -- go to www.aninconvenientturf.com or call Rick at (917) 689-1799.
The hurry-up offense of the proponents of the project soon ran into a block when it was learned that only 5 days earlier two Assemblymen in Albany had introduced a bill in favor of 6-month moratorium on the sale and installation of artificial turf fields until the health effects of turf fields could be studied (for the Englebright-Colton bill, see this site’s page “Moratoriums”).
The news of the moratorium legislation bolstered the position of the grassroots Anti-Synthetic Turf Action Group of F-M (http://www.geocities.com/fmturf/health.html, email: firstname.lastname@example.org). It launched a website and concerned parents like Valerie Clarke and other citizens began a campaign of public information about the health implications of artificial turf fields and the need for further studying of the product.
On November 19, 2007, the Board of Education voted to postpone the turf project. The Board indicated it would discuss the project in December anyway and it may put it before the voters in March 2008, hoping for a project start date sometime in the fall of 2008. The Board member Dawn Cottrell was quoted as saying, “We are responsible and liable for the safety of our students. Any word that this might endanger our students’ health should be investigated before we put this for a vote.” Elizabeth Doran, “F-M delays vote on new stadium,” in Syracuse.com, November 20, 2007, at http://www.syracuse.com/articles/news/index.ssf?/base/news-12/119555254742880.xml&coll=1.
Comments of officials like Cottrell smack with genuine insincerity and pretend- ignorance. In fact, the health and safety risks associated with artificial turf fields were known wide and far already at the time of the Board’s vote in October. In fact, a group of parents and concerned citizens made a presentation to the Board on October 29 about the subject. See http://www.geocities.com/fmturf/health.html. And yet, Cottrell had the audacity to claim after the vote on November 19 that any word of turf endangering students’ health warranted a postponement of the turf project!
What had changed suddenly between October 29 and November 19? SynTurf.org would speculate the Board changed its mind for now because the proposed moratorium legislation might nix the state financial help for the project. This would put the entire financial burden of the project on the residents/taxpayers, who already in 2004 had shown no stomach for such extravagant projects. Therefore, by taking a necessary wait-and-see attitude, the Board at the same time placated the anti-turf action group, which was quick to commend the Board of Education for its prudent decision. See http://www.geocities.com/fmturf/health.html.
The following is an excerpt from a concerned parent in the Fayetteville-Manlius community, which offers a sober analysis of the isuues that require attention: “[I]t is important that the public becomes informed about the pros and cons of synthetic turf and the potential health hazards associated with tire crumbs. There is a plethora of information to sift through. We must be certain that we scrutinize the articles we read in order to evaluate the information as biased or unbiased, strong or weak, valid or invalid. We are in an advantageous position to learn what there is to know about tire crumbs and to make an educated choice about whether or not to install this type of turf on high school playing fields. We can either choose to follow the recommendations from certain groups who advise that more data is needed in order to properly assess the potential health hazards associated with tire crumbs before exposing our children to this material, or we can choose to proceed with the installation of this type of synthetic turf playing field because we are comfortable with the available evidence that it is indeed safe. The choice is ours, but we cannot turn back the clock and pretend that we didn’t know both sides of the argument.” For more of this editorial/guest column, see Valerie Clarke, “Synthetic Turf: Is it safe?” in cnylink.com (Eagle Newspapers), December 12, 2007, available at http://cnylink.com/cnynews/article.php?article_id=tP1197476171t4760094b0ac94.
[No. 13] Newton, Mass.: Green Decade Coalition Takes a Stand
The following is a reprint of a message from Green Decade Coalition/Newton published in its flagship newsletter Green News, vol. 17, no. 6 (November/December 2007), page 3, available athttp://www.greendecade.org/download/GD.News11-12.07.pdf. Also available in print edition of Newton TAB, Septemebr5, 2007, and on Newton TAB website at http://www.wickedlocal.com/newton/archive/x1185659873. Turf issues. The Green Decade Coalition/Newton (GDC/N) urges the Board of Aldermen to require a comprehensive assessment of the environmental impact for the proposed Newton South High School synthetic turf, prior to moving forward with any decision. The GDC/N understands that there are many factors (economics, usage, maintenance, etc.) that must be weighed in determining whether or not to install synthetic turf. However, we feel that the environmental factors have not been weighed adequately to make an informed decision.
Included in an environmental assessment, the City should perform a comprehensive environmental life cycle assessment of the synthetic turf against the best natural alternatives, which would be a grass field using organic fertilizers and the appropriate drainage system to mitigate runoff problems. This life cycle assessment would include the evaluation of installation impact, water use, fertilizers, maintenance, and replacement over a 50-year life period. A geotechnical analysis must also be conducted. We understand this analysis is part of the proposal to build the Field Turf. The decision should be made separately from one related to synthetic turf, as it could have similar implications for natural turf. Finally, since the fields ultimately drain into the Charles River, we need to include assessments from the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA), allowing us to analyze the runoff implications. This assessment should investigate water runoff implications of the installation as well as the impacts of regular use. We understand that there is an environmental cost to maintaining the natural fields or installing synthetic alternatives, and that there is great pressure to use and enjoy the public lands. However, the environmental factors will ultimately have direct impact on the health and safety of our children and the City, and we feel that it is imperative that we understand these implications before moving forward with the synthetic turf option. This statement from GDC/N was sent to all members of the Board of Aldermen and published in the Newton TAB newspaper.
[No. 12] Fairfield, Conn., November 8, 2007 -- Environmental Agency Nixes Turf Project. On November 6, 2007, the Connecticut Inland Wetlands Agency in Fairfield decided to deny Fairfield Country Day School’s request to install artificial turf fields. The Agency, which is housed in Fairfield's Conservation Commission at the Conservation Department, approved otherwise the rest of the application for reconstruction of the proposed playing fields at the private school. The Agency’s final condition of approval provided "A synthetic turf field will not be installed. Natural turf is a feasible and prudent alternative." This seems to mark the first time in Connecticut where environmental concerns have been placed ahead of turf’s selling points as a mud-free and weatherproof playing surface, with arguably less maintenance cost. The review process took five days, which included about 18 hours of expert witness testimony, with multiple rebuttals and sur-rebuttals. Two neighborhood citizen groups had opposed the artificial turf part of the application. Dr. David Brown, the director of toxicology at Environment and Human Health, Inc., a nonprofit organization in New Haven, reiterated the results of a well-publicized previous EHHI study about toxicity, leaching and outgassing of harmful substances from the crumb rubber that is used in artificial turf fields. The lawyer representing the group cross-examined the material that the sellers of artificial turf had presented to the Agency, including a 250-page document; he stayed focused on the adverse impact of zinc, a component of crumb rubber, leaching into the environment and the carrying capacity of the ecosystems that would receive the substance.The Agency also heard from groups’ expert on soils and wetlands. Kurt Tramposch, a public health consultant from Wayland, Massachusetts, attended the hearings. “Ultimately,” Tramposch told Synturf.org, “the hearings may come to be regarded as the origin of a new standard of proof in the emerging field of ‘turf law,’ whereby it is the applicant who will bear the burden to show artificial turf would not cause harm to the environment.” Call it the “Fairfield principle,” or just common sense the Agency has broken new ground in the on-going tiff over turf. A full news story about the Agency hearings is available at Brigid Quinn, “Synthetic turf denied,” in FairfieldMinuteman.com, November 8, 2007, http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=19002369&BRD=1653&PAG=461&dept_id=12717&rfi=6. [Editor's Note: In the earlier posting of this story reference was made to a presentation at an agency hearing by Mr. Kurt Tramposch, a public health consultant from Wayland, Massachusetts. Mr. Tramposch did not make a presentation at the hearings. Synturf.org regrets the repoting error.]
[No. 11] Albany, New York, November 8, 2007: Artificial Turf Moratorium: New York takes first step On October 24, 2007, the New York State Assemblymen Englebright and Colton introduced legislation that will establish a moratorium on the installation of synthetic turf pending a comprehensive public health study. The bill will also seek to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to environmental impact assessments of the use of synthetic turf, and seek to repeal certain provisions upon expiration thereof. Specifically, the bill provides for a public health study by the department of health on the use of crumb rubber in synthetic turf, a six month moratorium on its use and installation pending the health department’s report; and provides for a site specific environmental impact statement whenever synthetic turf use is proposed. This is the first instance of a legislative initiative to regulate the proliferation of artificial turf fields. The bill has been sent to the health committee for further consideration. For Bill Text A09503 of the 2007-2008 Regular Session go to http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A09503&sh=t.
[No. 10] New Haven, Conn., November 8, 2007: EHHI Challenges Connecticut Health Department’s Turf ‘Fact Sheet’ Environment and Human Health, Inc. of New Haven has responded to Connecticut Department of Public Health’s October 2007 fact sheet about artificial turf (http://www.ct.gov/dph/lib/dph/environmental_health/pdf/artificial_turf_(2).pdf). The point-by-point response will soon be made available on the non-profit’s website at www.ehhi.org. EHHI created quite a stir last summer with the release of a study that examined the harmful health and environmental effects of leaching and outgassing of substances in the crumb rubber that is used in artificial turf. The organization’s call for a moratorium on installation of artificial turf fields pending health and environment studies has echoed in the New York State Assembly, where a bill to that effect was introduced on October 24, 2007. The organization’s testimony before the Fairfield Inland and Wetlands Agency on November 6, 2007, contributed to Agency’s decision to nix an applicant’s request to build a synthetic turf on the grounds of a private school. The give-and-take will cover the following FAQs in the fact sheet: (1) What chemicals can be released by the rubber infill material?; (2) How can people be exposed to rubber chemicals at artificial turf fields?; (3) Are people exposed to these chemicals in other ways?; (4) Is there a health risk?; (5) Should towns continue to install this type of artificial turf field?; (6) Where can I get more information? The answer to the last point is rather obvious -- more information is available at www.ehhi.org and on this site! Stay tuned to this entry for a link to the EHHI responses to the CT DPH “Fact Sheet.”
[No. 09] Westmount, Quebec: The city of Westmount is situated on the western slopes of Mount Royal in Canada’s Quebec Province. It encompasses an urban forest, with numerous parks and playgrounds, and boasts more than 11,000 trees in its public green spaces alone. On May 28, 2007, more than a thousand residents presented a petition to the City Council, opposing plans for the installation of artificial turf fields at Westmount Park. Among the opponents of the project were Save the Park, Westmount Park School Council, and Narnia day care center. In addition to a litany of health, environmental and cost concerns, the petitioners’ gripe was informed also by the experience with the turf installation at the city’s Jeanne Mance Park, whence “a rubber odour emanates from the surface and travels a considerable distance from the park.” To read more aboutthis story: Martin C. Barry, “Synthetic turf opponents present 1,000-strong petition to council,” June 5, 2007, available at http://www.westmountexaminer.com/article-110612-Synthetic-turf-opponents-present-1000strong-petition-to-council.html. [No. 08] Newton/Wayland/Wellesley, Massachusetts: “On a cloudless summer morning, Kurt Tramposch, a public health consultant from Wayland, looked out across acres of green, artificial-turf playing fields in Waltham. Others might have seen a vista of potential play, a landscape made for fun. Not Tramposch. ‘Some of us look at this and see a tire dump,’ he said. Tramposch and a small group of allies have come together to oppose what some call progress - a growing wave of installations of artificial turf throughout the [Boston area’s] western suburbs. They are fighting the battle on blogs, before town officials, and even in the state Legislature, arguing that there are too many health and environmental questions surrounding fake grass. In some communities, they have taken local officials to court… And they are unafraid to take on a very powerful force in local politics: sports boosters.” To read more about this story: Meghan Woolhouse, “Grass-roots uprising: Health, environmental issues slow dash to build artificial playing fields,” The Boston Globe, September 13, 2007, available at http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/09/13/grass_roots_uprising/. [ No. 07] Wayland, Massachusetts: In November 21, 2006, the Town of Wayland’s Conservation Commission decided to clear the project to install an a artificial turf field at Wayland High School. Ten residents appealed the ConCom’s decision to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, asking the department to determine if the water quality issues were properly addressed by the commission. In March 2007, the department sent a letter to the town stating that the town must make sure the field drained safely and way from the water wells. In May 17, 2007, the department affirmed the conditions that the town’s conservation commission had placed on the project. In June 2007, the “Wayland 10” appealed the department’s decision, requesting an adjudicatory hearing. A letter from the United States Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service proved crucial for the residents’ case. It told the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection that the Wayland-10’s concerns about toxicity of the leachate from rubber crumb from the proposed field should be addressed. By July 23, 2007, the Wayland “minutemen” managed to get the town to agree to a rigorous testing and monitoring of the run-off and leachate from artificial turf field in order toprotect the town’s drinking water and wetlands. According to the agreement, the town will hire an independent consultant to test for contaminants that may leach from the synthetic turf, which, as designed, is comprised of 40,000 ground-up rubber tires. Under the agreement, the town will take steps to remediate problems if the consultant finds contaminants that endanger drinking water or wetlands. In exchange for these built-in safeguards and independent oversight, the residents agreed not to pursue further litigation pertaining to the field project. To read more about this story: Peter Reuell, “Wayland agrees to regularly test field,” The MetroWest Daily News, July 25, 2007, available at http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/homepage/x1396328823. [No. 06] Wellesley, Massachusetts: In February 2007, Town of Wellesley’s school committee moved quickly to approve the installation of two artificial turf fields at the Sprague Elementary School. The tide turned against the project when in March, 2007, the town’s selectmen voted to institute user fees on youth athletic programs as a way to pay for the proposed turf fields. In voting against user fees, the lone selectmen, David Himmelberger, questioned the safety of the turf plan as a whole. “I have grave reservations about this vote and about this project … I don’t think the Sprague student community should be placed at risk to gain more fields … this product has never been evaluated for use by elementary school kids. There are latex allergy issues and asthma issues that haven’t been addressed,” he was reported as saying. By the time of the Annual Town Meeting a critical number of citizens had garnered siffcient attention and literature to educate the town meeting members on the potential health risks associated with artifcial turf. The first time Article 22 came up for a vote, it was defeated. The defeat did not deter the propoents of the proejct to call for reconsideration of the vote. The recosideration came a week later at the Town Meeting on April 10-11, 2007, after five hours of debate in the span of two nights. On April 11, the majority of members at the meeting voted for the resolution to fund the turf fields, but the measure fell short of the needed two-thirds majority to pass. To read more about this story:Brad Reed, “Split board backs user fees,” The Wellesley Townsman, March 8, 2007, available at http://www.townonline.com/wellesley/homepage/x110101603; Brad Reed, “Turf’s out,” The Wellesley Townsman, April 12, 2007, available at http://www.townonline.com/wellesley/archive/x1222193239. [No. 05] Westport, Connecticut: “The Westport Brief,” provides a brief recounting of the efforts of a few concerned mothers in Westport, Connecticut, who raised questions about dangers of artificial turf and in the process got the state’s attention. Previously, surveys and tests had claimed that the rubber crumb, which is made mostly of ground up used tires, posed no threat to human health. That myth is now being debunked by the results of a new test commissioned by Environment and Human Health, Inc., a North Haven, Connecticut, non-profit organization (http://www.ehhi.org) dedicated to protecting human health from environmental harms through research, education and improving public policy. To read more about this story:www.synturf.org (this site), page “WrapUpArticles," Article No. 3. [No. 04] Wilmington, Massachusetts: “Always a lush, deep green, practically indestructible and needing virtually no maintenance, the newest generation of artificial turf – with its grass like feel and remarkably forgiving, bouncy surface – has become all the rage for year-round sports facilities. You can play as well in the rain as on a clear day, if it snows, just brush the white stuff off. Muddy fields, a memory; holes in the ground, what’s that? So who wouldn’t be enamored playing on, or even just looking at this newest of scholastics sports necessities? Try more than half of student athletes at Wilmington High School.” To read more about this story: Franklin B. Tucker, “Wilmington athletes not sold on turf,” April 12, 2007, available athttp://www.townonline.com/wilmington/homepage/x1107229452.
[No. 03] Woodside, California: Situated on the San Francisco Peninsula, Woodside is one of the wealthiest small towns in the country. With a population slightly over 5,400, it is home to many captains of industry and persons of renown. As its name implies, it is wooded, with redwoods in the western hills and oak and eucalyptus trees in the lower areas. So, naturally, the proposal to install two artificial turf fields at Woodside School would have not been exactly “consistent with Woodside values.” Faced with an on-line petition, which was curiously dubbed “Keep One WES Soccer Field Natural Grass," on July 19, 2007, the Woodside Elementary School District agreed to use natural grass on the soccer field meant for K-3 children at Woodside School, but kept the turf plan for the filed to be used by the middle school. To read more about this story:David Boyce, Petition effort succeeds: Grass will grow on Woodside k-3 soccer field,” The Almanac, July 25, 2007, available at http://www.almanacnews.com/story.php?story_id=4617.
[No. 02] Atherton, California: Unlike Woodside, California, where the opponents of artificial turf valued “half of a loaf” as a compromise between the happiness of having grass fields and utility, on April 3, 2007, the Menlo Park City Council opted for none of it for Encinal School, an Atherton elementary school, where the proposal would have installed an adult-size turf soccer field. Three of the five Council members voted against the proposal. They said that there were “too many unanswered questions concerning the effects on the surrounding neighborhood, and the health, safety and environmental impacts of artificial turf.” Among the concerns, they cited “injuries caused by playing on the harder surface, the fact that the artificial turf gets warmer than grass, and the environmental effects of replacing grass with an artificial surface.” The opposition to the turf plan was mobilized by an impressive on-line petition (http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?Encinal). To read more about thisstory:Rory Brown, “No artificial turf at Encinal School: Existing grass field will be refurbished, but won’t be available until February,” The Almanac, April 11, 2007, available at http://www.almanacnews.com/story.php?story_id=3929.