The Edmonds School District Board of Directors voted Tuesday to use the crumb rubber/recycled tires infill option for artificial turf as part of a package that replaces the synthetic field, resurfaces the track and installs new lighting at Edmonds District Stadium.
A motion to substitute Nike Grind in place of the crumb rubber/recycled tires failed with only Board Member April Nowak voting in favor of it. Board President Diana White and Board Members Kory DeMun, Ann McMurray and Gary Noble voted against the motion. Using the Nike Grind, which are ground-up sneakers from a shoe recycling program, would have cost an additional $80,000.
The Board did unanimously approve upgrading to LED light fixtures at a cost of $90,000. District staff said that LEDs would reduce the District’s utility bill and that these lamps had a longer lifespan than other options. In addition, LEDs would require less maintenance and Snohomish PUD is offering a potential rebate of $20,000.
The total cost of the stadium project is $1,395,248 and is being funded by the 2014 Bond. The project is schedule to be completed by the fall of 2015.
The vote against Nike Grind, and in effect for crumb rubber/recycled tires, followed a Public Comment section of the meeting in which students, parents, teachers and residents spoke out against crumb rubber/recycled tires and artificial turf fields. Those speaking were addressing the Board about the District’s plans to install two artificial turf fields at the former Woodway High School site. But the speakers made clear their concerns about potential health risks associated with the crumb rubber/tire infill.
Noble acknowledged that the Board listened to and received a lot of information on the use of crumb rubber. The question Noble said he asked himself was whether artificial turf fields were unsafe for children. Noble said if they were, then the District should not have an artificial turf field at Edmonds District Stadium and the other artificial turf fields in the District should be torn out.
Noble also did not think a grass field at Edmonds Stadium was a viable option, given its heavy use by all four high schools and the down time needed for maintenance. As for the different types of infill, from the Nike Grind to organic, Noble wasn’t convinced they were the solution.
“That really doesn’t solve the health issues because we don’t know if these other things have health issues too,” he said.
In Noble’s opinion, the negatives of having less fields available for children was a greater negative than the “perceived but not proven health risks of artificial turf and so I believe that we should continue to have artificial turf on this field (Edmonds District Stadium).”
Noble said he took a look at the big picture including public money, the safety of children and how much use the field would get. “It’s all a large and complicated matter,” he said.
White noted that she had three football players in her family. “I want to keep my kids safe. I want to keep everybody’s kids safe,” White said. “I believe this artificial turf is the way that we need to approach it with the information that we have now. We’re doing the best that we have with the knowledge that we have now.”
If there is a problem with the crumb rubber in the future, White said that the Board will be the first people to address it.
The Board is scheduled to make a decision on the artificial turf fields at the former Woodway High School in May.
– By David Pan
Updated May 3 with a clarification from Snohomish County PUD.