Municipal and Schools Budgets Proposed for FY ’19-20, Public Comments Focus on Turf, Ice Rink

Greenwich Free Press: January 25, 2019.

On Thursday night Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei presented his recommended budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2019 and ending on June 30, 2020 to the BET.

After his presentation and that of the Schools Superintendent Mayo, there were about 90 minutes of public testimony which primarily focused on opposition to artificial turf. Several residents said they favor investing in grass fields with better drainage. There was also vocal support for a new Dorothy Hamill Ice Rink.

Diana Zuckerman, a 30 year health policy scientist and president of the National Center for Health Research, traveled from Washington DC to testify about artificial turf.

“Artificial turf companies say there is no evidence that the fields can cause cancer,” she said. “This is often misunderstood to mean turf is safe. It takes many years to conclude that long-term exposure is safe, and there’s no such evidence for artificial turf. The materials contain carcinogens. Day after day, year after year, this increases the chances of cancer in children and later on as adults. Why spend millions on turf that is less safe than well designed grass fields?” she asked.

Rick Loh from the Parks & Rec Advisory Board said of the Hamill Rink project,” It has taken many years to see these numbers in the budget. Hopefully you’ll keep them where they are. There has been a number of people working on this for a number years. RFPs have come back and we’re ready to take it to the next step.”


During the public hearing, Susan Rudolph said she had studied the artificial turf industry, which she described as large, rich and powerful.

“Plastic grass looks pretty but is made of petroleum,” said Ms. Zuckerman, president of National Center for Health Research. “Turf companies hide what is in it. There are no safety tests to prove artificial turf is safe for long term use. Meanwhile they advise parents how to reduce exposure. I’ve seen firsthand that officials in school systems have been erroneously assured that artificial turf is safe. Greenwich can set an important example by protecting children from artificial turf.”

Dr. David R Brown, public health toxicologist, who spent part of his career at the CDC, cited a March 2018 study of 200 soccer players with cancer. He said most of them were goalies and they suffered from Lymphomas, Sarcomas, Testicular cancer, Thyroid cancer, Brain cancer, and Lung cancer.

Dr. Patricia Taylor said that at Guilford High School, an artificial turf failed after it was installed. She said Malone and MacBroom received $87,000 for design, inspection and contract management. The field cost $1.15 million to install.

“They chose Envirofill and in 2016 the field was installed. It was used starting in 2017. Defects were noticed in 2018,” she said. “The field was literally coming apart at the seams. It cost $40,000 for consultant to look at it. And it was not in use as of May 2018.”

Taylor said that field was determined to have failed due to extreme temperatures and a drainage issue, and that there was disagreement about who was liable. Ultimately, she said the case was settled confidentially.

“The field will be rebuilt, but will not be ready for spring 2019,” she said. “Companies like Malone and MacBroom make assurances about safety, but human health risk studies have not been done.”

Taylor warned the BET that if the Town uses artificial turf to cover contaminated soil at Greenwich High School, the Town may have liability. “Plastic and rubber absorb hitchhikers – chemicals in the environment around them.”

“Synthetic turf fields are also flammable,” she added. “So they’re fenced and keep neighbors off, access is restricted and the it becomes a source of revenue.

Mary Jones with the Toxins Action Center in Boston said injuries such as burns and abrasions are more common than with real grass. “Grass turf is growing in popularity across the country.  The residents of Greenwich are not alone in their preference for grass for their playing fields. Greenwich can continue to be a leader in sustainability in Connecticut.”[…]

See the full article here.