Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Artificial Turf: The Staff Report

Thanks to Keith Levchenko (brother of Council member Phil Andrews [D-District 3])and Essie McGuire for the staff report, below, dated June 29, 2010, for the T&E Committee meeting to take place tomorrow, July 1, at 2 pm at the County Council office building, 100 Maryland Avenue.  A stellar cast hand picked by these staff members and I assume, council members show without a doubt that artificial turf is safe and a great investment for Montgomery County.  Heat islands seen from space? No worries.  Lead? no worries.  Carcinogens, heavy metals, leaching into our groundwater and the Chesapeake Bay? No worries. This County Council has no worries about any of it.  Read the report yourself:

Artificial Turf Montgomery County Council Staff Report July 29 2010


  1. See below for questions on the staff report:
    Dear Council President Floreen and members of the T&E Committee:

    I would like to bring your attention especially to a couple of glaring omissions from the report

    1) The first omission central to its environmental and fiscal impact are the disposal and replacement issues. The report repeats the misconception that the 20,000 tires per field are being somehow recycled or recyclable. But those 20,000 pulverized tires, classified as hazardous waste wherever they come from, merely become Montgomery County's expensive hazardous waste disposal problem after a short interval of burning and attaching to athletes as infill on an artificial turf field. In addition the tire crumb infill is mixed with sand and can't now be separated. The mixed plastic rug is not easily recyclable so after its 8 or so years life it is typically landfilled.

    Citizens have repeatedly asked the council (and Board of Ed and Executive) to demand answers to the disposal question for the current and proposed fields - how will it be done? with what environmental impact and safeguards? who will pay for the disposal and how? Council staff only needed to ask these questions, as we have, to find out: the Incinerator already tried to burn a piece of artificial turf only to find it would not burn but would only toxically smolder. There is currently no knowledge or plan on how to dispose of the plastic or tire crumb. Indeed, Montgomery County is not permitted to burn tires. So what will be done with the 100 tons of tire crumb? Disposing of 20,000 tires in a landfill would not normally be allowed. Pulverizing the tires does not change their toxicity and in fact increases the surface area from which chemicals and heavy metals can leach, especially when in contact with ground and water. The best answer we could get on the plastic is they could ship it off to a landfill in Virginia (and how much would that cost and who would pay??). The time to solidify plans for safe, environmentally responsible disposals or recycling of the tires and plastic is NOW. NOT 2 to 6 years from now when the first acres of plastic and hundreds of tons of tire crumb hit our solid waste stream. Please ensure that not a single field more is even considered until Montgomery County shows it can deal with all this waste in an environmentally responsible, safe cost-effective manner. RIght now there is no such plan.

    Field turf has suggested they will recycle but admit the current generation of their product, which MCPS and Parks are sole sourcing, is NOT recyclable.
    What is our hurry to install non- recyclable, unsustainable toxic waste fields we must pay to dispose of?

    2) The second major omission is not factoring in replacement costs for artificial turf (on top of disposal costs) every 5-10 years. The plastic and rubber starts to degrade as soon as it is put in place. As plastic fields around the country fail early or come to the end of their 8 years or so, replacement costs of 600k to one million dollars are typical and disposal costs at a hundred thousand or more. These costs blow away any positive comparisons for artificial turf and MUST be factored in. In addition the more heavily used a field is the sooner it becomes unplayable and needs to be replaced. (Please see attached. )

  2. 3) The other issue not addressed is natural alternatives to artificial turf. Plastic fields will typically LOOK fine when they become dangerous to play on (because they are artificial) while grass fields will signal their needs for maintenance. Grass fields, SMARTly installed and maintained can cheaply meet high use and durability requirements if the right grass, soil preparation and organically focused maintenance are chosen. They need not be laced with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Leaf compost not only feeds the soil but suppresses weeds. In addition Stormwater capture and use for irrigation is the standard practice in many parts of the country.

    Entirely missing is any discussion of the known, effective natural grass alternatives existing even as close as our own County Parks pilot Bermuda grass fields and the beautiful cheaply maintained and heavily used multi-sport fields maintained by Kevin Mercer at Mary's College in Maryland with minimal chemicals and with organic methods (he testified at the MCCPTA forum in October of 2009 and offered to talk with our folks if asked.) . Comparisons are still made between state of the art synthetic turf fields with underground drainage on the one hand, and thin sod on native clay soil on the other. This continues to be an inappropriate apples to oranges comparison: the durability of great, smartly installed and maintained, natural vegetation needs to be the central comparison

  3. Today's hearing is just for show. It's an election year. You don't actually think the Councilmembers will "think" about these issues, do you? You don't think they will actually "do" the math?

    The Council sat back and let MCPS fake the cost comparison in 2008, there's no indication that they are going to take any of these issues seriously today.


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