Monday, October 10, 2016

Precautionary vs. Rethinking Down the Road

Sarah Collins/PublicSource
As soccer players fight for the ball at the Keystone Oaks High School field, clouds of black pellets trail their cleats.
But in the Chartiers Valley School District, concerns about the health effects of crumb rubber prompted the board there to choose “virgin” rubber pellets for the infill in its new field. Virgin rubber has never been used in tires and does not contain the chemicals in tire rubber, said superintendent Brian White. 
Mr. White said a resident brought concerns about crumb rubber to his attention and he shared those concerns with the school board. As a result, the board watched an ESPN video about anecdotal links between crumb rubber and cancer. 
The board then decided it would be wise to look into alternatives.

Meanwhile, back in Mt. Lebanon
The lack of conclusive studies stirred a local public debate in Mt. Lebanon last year. 
Some residents and town Commissioner Kelly Fraasch raised health concerns about installing crumb rubber turf at the Wildcat and Middle fields along Cedar Boulevard. 
The majority of the commission, however, voted in favor of installing the turf, and it was installed in summer 2015. The fields are used by community soccer leagues as well as the high school baseball and lacrosse teams. 
“I wanted to wait to research alternatives,” Ms. Fraasch said. “But there was a movement among the majority of the commission to get this done.” 
The commission, at the urging of community sports leagues, planned the switch from grass to turf so that the field use could be increased. After it rains, drainage and mud on grass fields create problems. Repeated use also wears down a grass field faster, said David Donnellan, director of recreation for Mt. Lebanon. 
In response to the concerns, the municipality sent a sample of each bag of crumb rubber pellets that were ordered to be used at the fields for testing at a private laboratory to see if the level of chemicals met EPA standards. 
“They met the EPA standards for the chemicals in the pellets at the time,” Mr. Donnellan said. “If new information becomes available down the road we will rethink what we are doing.”

Scott Township and Mt. Lebanon are certainly consistent. They have handled the deer debate with the same approach. Scott Township is concerned for their residents' safety, while Mt. Lebanon shoots first and then will rethink down the road, after the damage is done.

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