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Dec 2, 2016 1:50 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Pierson PTA And PTSA Make A Statement About Turf Field Proposal

Sag Harbor community members had the opportunity to voice their opinions about the proposed artificial turf field for Pierson High School at an informational meeting on December 1. CAILIN RILEY
Dec 6, 2016 3:58 PM

Members of the Sag Harbor Elementary School PTA and Pierson PTSA made their feelings about the proposal to build a turf field behind the high school very clear in a meeting at the school last week:

No thanks.

More than 30 PTA and PTSA members voted that they were not in favor of taking roughly $365,000 from the district’s capital reserves to help cover the cost of installing an artificial turf field that would replace the natural grass surface behind the high school, which is in need of some kind of upgrade or repair. The community agreed to fund the artificial turf field with a bond vote in 2013, but the money initially set aside for that project is now insufficient after the cost went up in recent years—hence the need for voters’ permission to take money from the capital reserves to make it happen.

Members of the community will vote on the measure to take additional funds from the capital reserves on December 14, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., in the Pierson High School gymnasium.

Superintendent Katy Graves and Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi gave a brief presentation on Thursday, December 1, detailing why the additional funds are needed and driving home the point that the allocation of those funds will not amount to an additional out-of-pocket expense for residents via any kind of tax increase. Ms. Graves also reminded those in attendance that several cost-cutting measures have already been made to the original proposal, such as the removal of a two-lane walking track and plans for concrete fencing and platforms in certain areas.

Their presentation was followed by a presentation from Patti Wood of Grassroots Environmental Education, who essentially highlighted the latest concerns and science around the potential health risks that opponents say the artificial fields—particularly the crumb rubber infill—would pose.

While the community initially voted in favor of artificial turf—albeit by a close 585-507 vote—back in the fall of 2013, it was clear at last week’s meeting that many parents in the community have serious concerns about the safety of artificial turf and are uncomfortable with the idea that their children would be playing sports or participating in physical education classes on a daily basis on an artificial surface that contains known carcinogens. The crumb rubber infill that is the primary ingredient in artificial turf fields—which have become ubiquitous on Long Island and around the country in the last decade—is made from recycled tires, which contain chemicals such as benzyne that can increase the risk of blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.

To date, there have not been thorough or definitive studies on the health risks playing on turf fields poses, although, increasingly, people are becoming convinced that it’s only a matter of time before the crumb rubber infill is proven to be harmful.

The health risks that the fields pose were the subject of an ESPN documentary, reported by former USA National Women’s Soccer Team soccer player Julie Foudy, which investigated the link between soccer goalies, in particular, showing a high rate of cancer, presumably because they spend more time diving on the surface and stopping the ball with their hands near their face, thus ingesting more of the tire crumbs either through their mouths or in their eyes—a point Ms. Wood addressed in her presentation.

Several of the parents who voiced their disapproval of artificial turf brought up the fact that Pierson students would have a unique relationship with the surface, because it would essentially be the only outdoor surface available for all middle school and high school students—not just athletes—due to the small size of the school property. Neighboring districts like East Hampton, Southampton, Hampton Bays and Westhampton Beach all have artificial turf fields at their high schools, though not at their middle schools.

And while the turf fields are used routinely for both physical education classes and organized sports at all levels—junior high, JV and varsity—phys ed teachers and coaches also have several other grass playing fields at their disposal for gym class, practices and games, meaning that both student-athletes and students in physical education classes aren’t coming into contact with the artificial surface as often.

Proponents of artificial turf argue that the main benefit of the surface is that it is maintenance-free—a fact critics dispute to a certain degree—and essentially cannot be overused, at least not in the way grass can, and that artificial turf holds up much better in adverse weather conditions. But the parents in attendance at Thursday night’s meeting were clearly uncomfortable with the idea that their children would be subjected to the potential health risks on a daily basis. Aside from the concerns about chemicals present in the recycled tires, the fields have also proven to heat up much faster and stay hotter than a grass surface, although Pierson’s artificial turf field would include crumb rubber encased in acrylic, designed lessens the severity of that problem.

While the PTA and PTSA made their collective positions on the turf clear on Thursday night, residents in the community had another chance to hear about the proposal and gather more information before they go to the polls on December 14: The school was slated to host another forum on Wednesday, December 7, at 7 p.m. in the elementary school gym.

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The PTA And PTSA are wise indeed.

By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Dec 2, 16 2:56 PM
1 member liked this comment
Turf fields are in no way the answer. Decomposing rubber that is spread throughout the air is not what you want your kids to be breathing. Put some work into the grass and the results will be amazing. Almost positive some work was done over the summer on the field. Take advantage of it.
By nytractor (15), hampton bays on Dec 2, 16 3:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
We all played on grass as kids out here. Never got MSRA, twisted an ankle from the unforgiving ground, got skin burns from the turf, or was exposed to lead, zinc, other other chemicals. Did get a lot of grass stains, but those generally came out in the wash.
By watermill_mike (35), Sag Harbor on Dec 2, 16 3:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
Long term Effects of the rubber or the fertilizer ?
By dave h (193), calverton on Dec 2, 16 6:00 PM
The Sag Harbor School District would be paying $2,000,000 for an athletic field. What are they thinking?
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Dec 2, 16 6:06 PM
Why? We have to keep up with the west end schools... Grass is good, natural,
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Dec 2, 16 6:30 PM
It seems to me that its not fair to force all of the kids to play on artificial turf when the science is clearly not conclusive at this point. (It's not like Sag Harbor is a Sports Academy) What is the BOE thinking? Sounds like they are in denial about the inevitable lawsuits they'll face if they install astroturf. After this much analysis and scrutiny on the subject the school will get sued every time any student gets sick. Plus it's just not right to put the kids at risk if there's any doubt ...more
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Dec 2, 16 11:13 PM
Why would the Sag Harbor community want to keep Katy Graves?
By April1 (156), Southampton on Dec 3, 16 6:44 AM
1 member liked this comment
For $10k a year, they could seed the crap out of that field for the next thirty years, and then some. What moronic thought process was behind the overpriced, carcinogenic proposal to begin with? And these people manage the school budget??
By Harbor Master (114), Sag Harbor on Dec 3, 16 9:24 AM
And they hired you as harbor master?? All the wonderful chemicals from treating the grass will have no effects on the water quality. If any of you folks know anything about turf vs. grass, You all are just a bunch of sheep following the flock are any of you people who posted really educated about turf vs grass. I doubt it you just listen to what you here and follow.
By J. Totta (106), Sag Harbor on Dec 5, 16 12:08 PM
Southampton had the best grass field on long island. Folded to pressure and built a artificial grass.
Just a case of too much money and trying to keep up with the west end. Ever think of giving the taxpayers a break???
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Dec 3, 16 12:17 PM