CARLSBAD — Synthetic turf will remain at Stagecoach Community Park.
Concerns were raised over the health risks of synthetic turf earlier this year, resulting in the City Council tabling the matter until July 23. However, a report from Parks and Recreation Director Kyle Lancaster found no concrete evidence to support those claims.
As a result, the City Council is moving forward with replacing the old turf as it is well past its usefulness, Lancaster said. The current turf is about 14 years old, six more than the average lifespan.
One of the main concerns was over the use of crumb rubber, which is ground up rubber from old tires. However, with advances in the application of the rubber, which is also mixed with sand to cool and weigh down the turf, studies have not found conclusive evidence of potential harms to humans.
The rubber, though, does contain carcinogens, but the type being used for the city fields is coated and presents no tangible health risks, Lancaster said.
A study by the Environmental Protection Agency, along with the Centers for Disease Control, has been pushed and its release date is pending. The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is also studying the effects of crumb rubber.
“I would be interested when those studies come forward … and what does come from that,” said Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel, who has a doctorate in public health. “I tried to look for something, but I didn’t necessarily see that.”
The city is using a coated crumb rubber with green acrylic and then clear polyurethane, which is applied to prevent or reduce exposure to any potential harmful components of the rubber.
It also can reduce a field’s surface temperature by three to 10 degrees over traditional uncoated crumb rubber, Lancaster said.
Bob Harding, principal with DA Hogan and Associates, has worked on five of the city’s synthetic fields, and said while studies show the need for more research, those agencies currently support the use.
“Based on the scientific research, there is neither the dose, nor the exposure route, to indicate a health hazard for artificial turf/crumb rubber field users,” Elizabeth Black said in a report to Harding. “All studies acknowledge that additional data is needed to more fully assess potential exposures and possible health risks associated with the use of artificial turf fields with crumb rubber. In the meantime, leading public health agencies, such as the EPA and Consumer Product Safety Commission, are supporting continued use of artificial turf fields with crumb rubber.”
Councilwoman Barbara Hamilton was in favor of the natural grass, but her motion failed by a 4-1 vote.
Other issues with a natural field, or grass, is the cost of maintenance, watering and use. A synthetic field can absorb about three times the use compared to grass, and maintenance work is reduced by an estimated 20 hours per week and is more cost effective, Lancaster added.
As for the cost, the city will pay more than $1.5 million, which includes $149,064 for the coated crumb rubber. The replacement is expected to take about four months.
“There are trade-offs and one them is water,” Mayor Matt Hall said. “When you talk about sustainability, we’ve worked hard since 1990 to reverse that.”