Letter: Turf field could be both costly and embarrassing

Turf field could be both costly and embarrassing

To the editor:

On Feb. 12, in response to reports of unusual cancers in young soccer players, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a federal plan to study recycled tire crumbs used on playing fields. According to a statement on the EPA's website, the Federal Research Action Plan will include multiple research studies and the agencies hope to release a report of the findings by late 2016. It is obvious that real health concerns exist to warrant this expenditure of taxpayer money.

The "crumb rubber" pellets used in these fields are made from recycled car and truck tires which contain many known carcinogenic chemical compounds. Car and truck tires are designed to be used on vehicles with doubtful consideration given to their final use as playground fill material.

As the pellets are made from a recyclable waste material, there are no enforced regulatory standards on the composition or source of the fill material. Therefore, studies on the safety and performance of existing artificial turf fields are scientifically unsound because the exact composition of the fill material in those fields is unknowable.

Citizens should not assume the recent Massachusetts DEP ruling guarantees the health safety of the proposed BCC turf field. The DEP indicated from the beginning that the question of the toxic content of field material is outside their legal purview. The DEP decision was based only on its legal obligation to assure that the "turf field project complies with Riverfront Area performance standards and for work in buffer areas and there will be no stormwater discharges." Nor should any confidence of safety be implied from the Williams College and other turf field installations since these facilities were built before the health concerns now being considered by the EPA became evident.

If constructed, the BCC turf field will be made of more than 40,000 ground-up car and truck tires. If the EPA study finds against using "crumb rubber," the field will be a serious embarrassment to the city of Pittsfield and BCC and present a massive cleanup bill to the taxpayers of Massachusetts.

I believe there is a real risk involved in using "crumb rubber" and think that it would be prudent to delay construction of a "crumb rubber" field at BCC at least until after the EPA report is released and evaluated. Construction of a natural grass field would be an environmentally friendly alternative to a possible toxic nightmare on the BCC campus.

Edward Wetzel, Pittsfield


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