Crumb rubber field approved despite protests from community members

© HAWKEYE Stephi Smith
Edmonds Heights students attend the rally before the School Board meeting opposing the crumb rubber turf field at their school.

Two months after the idea was proposed, the Edmonds School District (ESD) school board voted on whether or not to incorporate crumb rubber turf field, an artificial turf made from recycled tires, into the Edmonds Heights (EH) fields. The vote was finalized to install crumb rubber turf in the new EH school field.

A rally was held outside the Educational Services Center (ESC) at about 5:45 p.m, leading up to the meetings. Members of the Edmonds community stood outside, holding signs and chanting in opposition of the turf field.

Many people don’t like the idea of the crumb rubber turf because they think it may hold hazardous, cancer-causing chemicals.

Edmonds resident April Osborne said there are multiple alternatives to crumb rubber, such as natural grass or Geo Turf, another artificial turf made from coconut fiber and cork. Osborne said these alternatives are safer.

There are multiple reasons not to use crumb rubber, according to Edmonds resident Christie Davis.

Davis, who organized the rally, said she was holding it because she is concerned for not only her own kids but every student at EH. She said she just wants the EH students to be safe and have a turf that does not have such harmful effects.

Edmonds resident Laura Johnson agreed with Davis, saying she wants to protect her own three children who attend EH.

Davis said she can’t find a good reason as to why ESD is proposing the use of crumb rubber because “there are so many studies against it.”

However, Johnson believes  ESD chose crumb rubber based on the fact that so many other schools have it.

“It’s about equity,” Johnson said. “Other schools have it, so [ESD thinks] ‘why not us?”

The protesters chanted things such as “our health matters” and “we have other choices.”

After one final chant, they gathered inside and took seats in the school board meeting.

Public comments were allowed. The comments were limited to about three minutes. Board President Diana White asked that all comments stay appropriate and respectable toward the audience and members of the school board, as recent meetings have had public comments that ended in shouting and interruptions.

At previous meetings, residents have brought things such as the burnt turf rubber for the committee to touch and smell. White established that props were not allowed to be passed around to the school board.

Edmonds resident Barbara Peterson voiced her opinion that crumb rubber is harmful to young children and said the ESD School Board should delay the vote. She said that there is currently not enough information to have a clear opinion on the use of crumb rubber.

Edmonds resident and rally organizer Christie Davis came up afterward and agreed with Peterson. She said she thinks it would be wise for the school board to either delay the vote or consider another alternative.

EH student Olivia Elliot said she uses the current school field to relax and sometimes do school work outside. She said she does not want there to be hazardous chemicals in the field and hopes another type of turf will be considered.

Shoreline Senator Maralyn Chase came to the stand in opposition of the turf. She said she wants the vote to be delayed while Washington works on additional legislation.

“I urge to put this vote off,” Chase said before she left the stand.

Edmonds School Board Director of District 4 April Nowak proposed to delay the crumb rubber turf vote by one year. It was then suggested by Board Director Kory DeMun to delay it only six months.

After these propositions, White motioned to delay the ESD crumb rubber turf vote by six months. The motion failed 2-3, with Nowak and DeMun in favor of the delay.

ESD Superintendent Dr. Nick Brossoit then made comments of his own regarding his thoughts about the crumb rubber turf.

Brossoit said there are multiple fields in Washington that use crumb rubber turf, such as the 12 fields at the University of Washington and Century Link Field, and no harm has been caused from them. He said he doesn’t think enough consideration has gone into this from the opposing side. Brossoit went on to list alternatives that he’s looked into and stated that crumb rubber is the best option at this moment.

“Based on scientific research, there is not a large enough dose [of crumb rubber] to cause any major health risks,” Brossoit said.

Additionally, Brossoit said he didn’t want anybody to think the ESD School Board is not taking the situation seriously. He said that they’ve looked into crumb rubber turf, had study sessions with a hygienist and have heard and listened to every concern voiced by the public.

Brossoit was interrupted by a member of the audience who stood up and refuted most of Brossoit’s comments.

Afterward, there was a short recess proposed by Diana White.

When they reconvened, White spoke on why she believes crumb rubber turf is appropriate for school fields.

Finally, a vote was made.

ESD School Board voted 4-1 to incorporate crumb rubber turf in the Edmonds Heights school field. April Nowak was the only Board member to vote against the turf field.

Construction for the new field is set to begin in November of 2016.