Wednesday, June 30, 2010

artificial turf fields

June 17, 2010

The Honorable Isiah Leggett
Montgomery County Executive
101 Monroe Street
Rockville, Maryland 20850

Ms. Mary Bradford, Director
Montgomery County Department of Parks
9500 Brunett Avenue
Silver Spring, Maryland 20901

Dear Mr. Leggett and Ms. Bradford:

I am writing on behalf of the Mid-County Citizens Advisory Board (MCCAB) to express our concerns about the proposed use of artificial turf fields by Montgomery County Public Schools and the Montgomery County Department of Parks. At its April 20, 2010 meeting, we heard from members of the community about their concerns about the proposed installation of artificial turf football fields at Wheaton High School, other public schools, and parks. Among the concerns expressed were negative impacts on the environment, student health, and County finances.

I asked the MCCAB’s Quality of Life Committee to examine these issues. Based on these deliberations, and a final discussion at our June 15th meeting, the MCCAB recommends the following actions be taken:

The Montgomery County Government (MCG) should place a moratorium on further construction of artificial turf fields in parks, schools and recreational areas until the environmental, health and financial impacts of these fields are better understood.

Although research on the environmental impacts of artificial turf fields is limited, there appears to be reason for concern. Artificial turf fields being installed in Montgomery County include the use of old tires. A single field installation includes the depositing of 120 tons of pulverized automobile tires and hundreds of tons of rock on County land. As a result phthalates and other harmful materials may be contaminating the ground and water. Additional concerns have been raised in the sports medicine community with high air temperatures on artificial turf fields. Again, research appears to be inconclusive, but the lack of conclusive research bolsters the need for caution before exposing young athletes and others to potential risk.

As you are well aware the County is facing unprecedented fiscal challenges. Although apparent savings on field maintenance may make artificial turf fields an attractive option, we urge the County to exercise caution. A review of literature indicates that the environmental and public health impacts of artificial turf fields are poorly understood, with many questions left unanswered. With such questions unanswered, it would seem difficult to determine exactly what future financial commitments the County is making with further artificial turf field construction.

A moratorium on construction would allow the County more time to deliberate and allow time for the science to "catch up". Therefore the MCCAB urges a moratorium on further artificial turf field construction on all MCG owned properties.

As always, thank you for your consideration and continued leadership.


Sheldon Fishman

cc: Montgomery County Council

Gabriel Albornoz, Department of Recreation

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