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With possible switch of athletic field surface, safety of artificial turf discussed in Dover

By KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent

May 15. 2018 9:07PM
Officials in Dover are planning to install artificial turf at the high school football field but environmental activists and parents are concerned about the safety of crumb rubber. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)



DOVER — City officials hosted a public forum Tuesday evening to learn more about switching from grass to artificial turf at the high school’s football field, and some members of the public expressed concern about the safety of synthetic products.

The city is building a new $84.7 million high school, and about $1 million has been allotted for improvements to the field.

Dover Deputy Mayor Robert Carrier, chairman of the Dover High School Joint Building Committee, said the current football field gets 40 uses a year, and they want to rent it out to earn revenue.

City officials say sports teams run by the school and recreation department don’t have enough places to play and practice. For at least 10 years, they have been looking at installing an artificial turf field for tournaments and other programs.

The school system’s athletic director, Peter Wotton, said they recently had to rent Dover Ice Arena for the boys lacrosse team to get a space big enough to practice.

“It would be a money saving issue in terms of us staying at our facilities,” Wotton said about the economic benefits of artificial turf.

School board Chairman Amanda Russell said children in city recreation programs practice on fields not intended for sports. She said Joint Building Committee members carefully considered artificial turf when they decided to go forward with learning more about their options from FieldTurf, the largest manufacturer of turf in the country.

Jason Azar of Nobis Engineering in Concord said they offer a range of products, and city officials in Dover are considering a rubber crumb and sand mixture.

Those against switching from grass to artificial turf say synthetic fields are unsafe and costly. A statement from Diana Carpinone of Non Toxic Dover explained the organization’s position.

“By utilizing organic land management practices according to what is now city policy, we can more than double the current use of our existing grass field to 1,000 hours of use per season, at a mere fraction of the cost of a synthetic field,” Carpinone said.

Carpinone says synthetic turf is a fossil fuel-intensive product treated with toxic chemicals like flame retardants. The most common infill, crumb rubber, contains at least 92 chemicals, 11 of which are known carcinogens and heavy metals like lead, she said.

Carpinone said synthetic turf must be replaced every eight to 10 years on average, and the most common method of disposal is into a landfill where pieces of plastic grass and infill can migrate into the environment.

Julia Tiedge of Dover, who has three children under the age of 10, said she’s against the use of artificial turf. She read off a list of warnings she found.

“Avoid use on very hot days. Avoid use for sitting, lounging and picnicking. Monitor children. Clean cuts and abrasions. Remove your gear before getting in your car,” Tiedge said. “That does not at all sound like anything I want my kids on or anyone else’s kids on.”

Carrier said they are working to do the right thing. “We’re not in the business of doing anything to harm children,” he said.


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