Oct 28, 2019

Massachusetts High School Tackles Turf Turmoil Amidst PFAS Discovery

The discovery of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in samples taken from synthetic turf is raising debates over the direction of a track and field turf project at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.  

The discovery of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in samples taken from synthetic turf at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School is raising debates over the direction of a track and field turf project. 

Test samples of synthetic turf by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Ecology Center found per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), raising concerns over a track and field turf project at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in Oak Bluffs, Mass..

The school is situated on a sole source aquifer, so there are concerns over the chemicals draining into the aquifer from stormwater runoff, reported MV Times. The project is also within a Zone II wellhead protection area, which are important for protecting the recharge area around public water supply groundwater sources, according to Mass. Department of Environmental Protection

The Massachusetts school plans to install a synthetic turf infield inside a resurfaced track, according to MV Times. Five natural grass fields will also be installed.

According to PEER’s press release, eight different turf samples contained moderate to high levels of fluorine, suggesting the presence of PFAS.

The school tasked Huntress Associates Inc. with making modifications to the school’s playing fields, which are deemed inadequate by some of the coaches and student athletes, reported MV Times. According to contractor Chris Huntress, synthetic turf can accommodate three times the amount of usage of a normal grass field.

“Plastic fields are highly problematic for athletes, taxpayers, and the environment alike,” reported the Field Fund, whose members are opposed to the installation of synthetic turf. “From injury risk, high temperatures and toxic exposures to exorbitant costs, plastic pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and more, plastic fields are not the answers to neglected grass fields.” 

Despite these concerns, Huntress assures that “we haven’t secured any one particular vendor; the project still needs to be put out to bid.” Huntress reached out to several turf manufacturers, such as Greenfields USA, Shaw Sports Turf and Act Global to see if their turf products contain PFAS. Each company told Huntress none of their synthetic grass carpets contain PFAS, according to MV Times.

“All this is happening in real time, it’s an ongoing process to vet these suppliers and make sure the materials are safe and of the highest quality,” Huntress said. “Our turf would be woven, and not tufted with a backing, so that would eliminate the issue of the backing, where PFAS was found,” Huntress said. 

According to Rebekah Thomson, co-founder of the Field Fund, it is unclear whether these companies are being honest about the presence of chemicals in their products. 

“There are thousands of PFAS chemicals that we don’t even have tests for,” Thomson said to MV Times. “These chemicals are largely unstudied, but what we do know is alarming.”

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