City Council tables Meadowdale Playfields decision until June 5 business meeting

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A group of activists gather outside Lynnwood City Hall in protest of crumb rubber.

Update: City staff were unable to put the playfields on the May 30 work session agenda, so further discussion will be delayed until the June 5 meeting.

The Lynnwood City Council decided during its meeting Monday that they need more time to review information about infill materials before voting  whether to award a bid to Hellas Construction for the Meadowdale Playfields project renovation.

Councilmembers will further discuss the project during a business meeting on Monday, June 5.

If the council decides to change the recommendation already given to and signed by the City of Edmonds and the Edmonds School Board, the new recommendation would need to be signed by all three entities before June 18, which is when the bid expires. If the bid is allowed to expire, the project would be delayed, which could also cause the project to lose grant money awarded on the contingency that the project be completed in a certain time frame.

According to the low bid by Hellas Construction, Inc., both alternate infills would add cost to the project. Coated crumb rubber would cost an additional $66,900. Natural cork infill would cost an extra $357,000.

The Edmonds School Board, as the owners of the property where the Meadowdale Playfields are located, gets final approval of any design or material used.

The school board passed a resolution approving the base bid for the project, including the use of crumb rubber, during its meeting on May 9. The board further discussed crumb rubber during its meeting on May 23. There are currently eight fields in the district that use crumb rubber as infill, including Lynnwood High School and Meadowdale High School.

A group of about a dozen activists held a rally outside Lynnwood City Hall before Monday’s meeting. The Lynnwood City Council made the decision to wait and further discuss the infill material after over one hour of public testimony regarding the playfields on Monday. Most comments were from residents concerned about chemicals found in SBR, better known as crumb rubber. Everyone who spoke agreed the fields need renovating, but had differing opinions on what materials should be used.

Marilyn Dauer, of Edmonds, told a story about her 4-year-old grandson playing t-ball on a turf field in Issaquah. As 4-year-olds do, he and his friends began throwing pieces of the field at each other and rolling around. Then, her grandson came up to bat.

“He got up and he was covered with this black stuff,” Dauer said. “It looked like ground up Oreo cookies. It was on his face and on his arms and on his legs. I went over and was trying to brush him off and I asked someone what is this stuff, and they said that’s crumb rubber.”

She said she’s concerned about the crumb, because it’s made from ground-up tires.

“I think anything that you can’t put in a landfill… I think there’s a concern about a substance like that, taking that and turning it into a playing field,” Dauer said.

Several other comments came from heads of sports organizations looking forward to playing on a new field, regardless of the infill material.

“I can tell you with absolute certainty that we are in desperate need of some fields,” Brad Sturgill, president of Pacific Little League, said. “My son has played at the University of Washington baseball field for several years during camps and things and, yes, he gets the black crumb stuff on him, and that’s fine. It’s just as easy to get off of them as mud.”

The city also received 41 letters of support regarding the award of the construction contract as is, with crumb rubber used as the infill material. Two letters did not support the use of crumb rubber.

Before deciding to table the contract award, Lynnwood City councilmembers offered emotional testimony regarding the use of crumb rubber. Councilmember M. Christopher Boyer shared his experiences with doctors endorsing their favorite brands of cigarettes because it was, at one point in time, considered healthy to smoke. Thalidomide was at one time prescribed to pregnant women suffering from morning sickness, which was later discovered to cause birth defects.

Councilmember Shirley Sutton reacts to smelling a sample of crumb rubber, brought to the meeting by an anti-crumb rubber activist.

“Everything I hear about crumb rubber troubles me deeply,” Boyer said. “I cannot endorse a solution that includes crumb rubber.”

Council Vice President Ruth Ross said she strongly supports renovating the fields, but also questions the use of crumb rubber.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that those fields are safe,” Ross said. “I fully intended to hear support for those fields and to say okay, we can do this. I no longer feel that way.”

She urged the council and involved parties to find a solution quickly so the project can move forward in a timely manner.

Other councilmembers felt strongly they should advance the project as is. Councilmember Shannon Sessions listed several products that are known to be bad for kids, including sugar, red dye, mold, social networking, secondhand smoke and cell phones, among other items.

“There is no study showing that crumb rubber is worse than any of those things I mentioned,” she said. “Hundreds and hundreds of families are going to benefit from these fields. It’s irresponsible for us to put in a cork field when we don’t even know how it’s going to wear.”

Council President Benjamin Goodwin said he has three children under the age of 9, and that two of the best things he can do to help his kids stay healthy are to limit their sugar intake and allow them to exercise. “That’s what we’re trying to do,” he added.

The council voted 5-1 to table the discussion, with Sessions casting the dissenting vote. Councilmember Ian Cotton recused himself from the vote and previous discussion because his employer, Stantec, is doing design work for the project.

During its meeting on Tuesday, May 23, the Edmonds School Board further discussed the use of crumb rubber. Board Member Carin Chase felt the topic warranted further discussion because of concerns raised the community.

“I think it’s imperative that we proceed with caution,” she said.

Other board members did not agree.

“You know what I hear from parents? Why don’t you fix Meadowdale’s field,” Board Member Diana White said.  Due to rain-soaked grass play fields, Meadowdale’s softball team “played zero home games this year,” White said. “They’re the defending state champions and they played zero home games this year.”

Board Member Gary Noble said nothing has changed since the district decided to use crumb rubber on its most recent field upgrades.

“My decision was based on two factors,” he said. “One, crumb rubber does not appear to actually have a problem even though there are perceptions of problems. And two, the alternatives cost more.”

Noble referenced recent studies by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) indicating that crumb rubber use does not result in a higher cancer risk, and a study by the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation that shows risks “at or below 1 in a million,” according to the Everett Herald.

Critics of the studies say the DOH’s sample size was too small for a viable result and the study looked at specific players rather than evaluated the cancer risks from playing on crumb rubber in general. The Cal Ripken study was reported by the Everett Herald, but the study itself has not been published by the foundation, nor has it been peer reviewed.

The Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Consumer Product Safety Commission are conducting a broad, joint study reviewing the potential hazards of crumb rubber. An update on the study is expected later this year.

The Lynnwood City Council will further discuss the issue during its meeting on Monday, June 5. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Lynnwood City Hall, 19100 44th Ave. W.

At the end of Monday’s City Council meeting, Cotton requested the council discuss banning the use of crumb rubber in the city limits of Lynnwood sometime before the end of July. He submitted a ban now in effect in the city of Edmonds as a model for the council to review.

–Story and photos by Natalie Covate

7 COMMENTS

  1. Seattle School District NO LONGER uses waste tire crumb rubber as infill for artificial turf replacements or installations! They conduct their replacement bids with CORK as the base bid!!

    Roosevelt School: “Three different turf infill material options were bid to provide a range of options for the District, including:
    • Cork, as the Base Bid;
    • Thermo Plastic Elastomer (TPE), as an Alternate Bid No. No.1;
    • Styrene Butadiene Rubber (SBR), also known as “crumb rubber”; as an Alternate Bid No. 2;
    “As the Board has previously noted, receipt of public comments surrounding health concerns related to the use of SBR crumb rubber, Seattle Public Schools formed a committee to identify alternative infill mixtures (to SBR crumb rubber) until more definitive health studies were conducted. Infill alternatives were identified for consideration that did not pose a greater injury risk to athletes and had similar maintenance characteristics as SBR crumb rubber to retain continuity in Grounds Department maintenance practices and not increase annual operating costs. Cork and TPE were selected as two synthetic turf infill mixtures that met those criteria and were bid against SBR crumb rubber to establish a cost differential.” https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/16-17agendas/05_03_2017/A04_20170504_Action_Report_Contract%20K5074_Roosevelt%20Field_Track_packet.pdf

    Bid for Whitman School: Three different turf infill material options were bid to provide a range of options for the District, including:
    • Cork, as the Base Bid;
    • Thermo Plastic Elastomer (TPE), as an Alternate Bid No. No.1;
    • Styrene Butadiene Rubber (SBR), also known as “crumb rubber”; as an Alternate Bid No. 2;

    “Until the publication of more definitive studies concerning the use of SBR crumb rubber, this Board Action Report is seeking approval of the use of cork as the synthetic turf infill material and authorization for the Superintendent to execute a contract with the contractor.”
    https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/16-17agendas/04_05_2017/A03_20170405_Action_Report_Whitman_Contract_K5076_packets.pdf

    “Bid for Robert Eagle School: BTA IV, Robert Eagle Staff Athletic Field, approval of amendment No. 2 to construction contract P5034 with Lydig Construction: Richard Best said this item is to approve an amendment to the contract with Lydig Construction for placement of a synthetic turf athletic field between Robert Eagle Staff and Cascadia schools. Styrene Butadiene Rubber (SBR) aka crumb rubber was not recommended by an independent ad hoc committee of experts from both private and public agencies who reviewed bids.”

    “Expressing pride for the district discontinuing the use of crumb rubber, the committee moved this item forward for consideration.”
    https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/16-17agendas/02_01_2017/I15_20170201_Action_Report_BTA_IV_RESHS_Athletic_Field_packet.pdf

  2. Seattle Parks and Rec: “As part of the project’s planning and design phases, Seattle Parks and Recreation has researched alternative infield products in the context of the projects where they are being used and have met with the manufacturers. Consequently, we are moving forward to try out a synthetic turf that uses organic cork as its fill material.”

    “Cork is a sustainable natural material. Cork trees remain alive and continue to produce after the cork is harvested. Cork is durable, resists fungal growth, requires no supplemental irrigation (to remain stable during dry/warm periods), is playable, and has the same maintenance requirements as other turf infill systems. Cork has been used in Europe for several years and is being used in California and Southwest playfields. Cork’s lighter color makes it more reflective than darker infills, thereby lessening field heat.” http://www.seattle.gov/documents/departments/parksandrecreation/projects/calanderson/bobbymorristurfproject.pdf

    Upcoming Seattle Parks and Rec Field Brighton Park with cork recommended a DA Hogan Presentation of a field with cork: http://www.seattle.gov/documents/departments/parksandrecreation/projects/brighton/brightonwwrplptechreview.pdf

    Seattle Parks and Recreation: Seattle Parks and Rec Bobby Morris Field installed July 2016: Seattle replaces crumb rubber field with new material. http://komonews.com/news/local/seattle-replaces-crumb-rubber-field-with-new-material

  3. Thank you Lauran for sharing this information as everyone wants a safe place for children to play. I believe most parents share your concerns about crumb rubber, but I know many who accept these possible risks in order to have a all weather field that is less prone to injuries. In politics there is no right answer only an opinion if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. There is no a simple solution to this issue, cork is untested and floats away in the rain. In the nation there is less then 40 fields with cork and I have concerns of this material harboring bacteria and mold. I thought article was insightful http://www.bsd405.org/2017/05/update-on-infill-for-new-turf-fields/

    Also insightful is Snohomish County Health report was YOUTH OBESITY and YOUTH SUICIDE has been reported as top concerns for years.
    http://www.snohd.org/Portals/0/Snohd/Living/files/AssessmentResultsFINAL8x11.pdf I think we all agree having access to safe all weather playfields can help combat both issue. We only disagree if the possible risk of crumb rubber outweighs the advantages of the use of crumb rubber. A definitive conclusion will not be determined for years to come especially since the scientific method last step is to continue research, step 6 Iterate: use results to make new hypotheses or predications. Please do not spin the scientific method as a bad thing, especially when you are encouraged a material that has not been tested.

    I hope you respect my concerns especially since this is looking for another win for your group. Currently there are only 2 votes for yes and 4 votes for no and shady excuse to be accused. Seriously how can someone work on the plans for the playfields that includes crumb rubber but at the same time request a ban? It is fact that there are concerned parents who do not want crumb rubber. However, I believe Councilmember George Hurst and Edmond’s School Board/Chair of the 32nd LD democrats Carin Chase are using these fears to help Hurst’s campaign to smear the City capability to run a project, helping his pursuit to ditch his responsibilities for more power and control. Therefore, when he wins Mrs. Chase can have the endorsement of the Lynnwood Mayor to overtake her mother’s legacy of the 32nd district state senate. I am so disgusted that these two would use parent’s fear for political gain. So you may have the right to be disgusted of the use of crumb rubber, I have the right to be disgusted by your friends. I encourage anyone who supports crumbrubber contact the City of Lynnwood Council because only voices who opposes are speaking up and they are having an effect. However, I completely respect to speak up concerns against crumb rubber. Just keep your dirty politics out of our children’s playfields.

    • Elisabeth,

      Cork is naturally anti-microbial and hence resistance to mold. The information on organic infill material and issues with mold comes from an early product that included the use of rice hull. Anyone still using this information is quoting outdated information that does not apply to pure cork infill. https://academic.oup.com/femsle/article/363/3/fnv231/2594523

      I understand your concern about sport fields harboring bacteria- it is a legitimate concern, but not because of the use of cork. In fact, read the link above to learn more about possible anti-bacterial benefits of cork. The real issue is that artificial turf fields are plastic and plastic in contact with sweaty bodies can harbor bacteria. That is why wrestling mats are regularly disinfected and why gym equipment should be wiped down between users. However, the fields are not disinfected, so if bacterial infections are a concern here are precautions you can take: https://www.cdc.gov/mrsa/community/team-hc-providers/advice-for-athletes.html

      As for cork floating away in a rain; crumb rubber floats as well. I can show you numerous pictures of crumb rubber floating off of fields during a flood event. However, cork is standing up well to NW weather. We just had our wettest winter on record, yet the Cal Anderson Field, which utilizes cork, had no issues. Here is a float test comparing cork and crumb rubber- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhqBhw-SSKo

      Finally, Senator Maralyn Chase has been involved in a number of actions involving children and exposure to toxic chemicals, including flame retardants in children’s products. For over two years now, alongside a number of their constituents, Senator Chase and Carin Chase have been working on the concern of crumb rubber on play and athletic fields. To assert that this issue is suddenly being used as a targeted political move seems a bit far fetched to me. Instead it sounds more like elected officials listening to the concerns of their constituents.

      As for the insults thrown, I am choosing to rise above. See you at the next council meeting.

      • Laura, you hit the nail right on the head of why I support crumb rubber, it’s easier to maintain and clean. Food, poop and the million other things can be sprayed off with crumb rubber and just a little float when being maintained. Yes, flooding is destructive to most things. Cork maybe to but it’s new and hasn’t been tested, in 25 years I might be support for cork, but right now I am not. Saying how it’s far fetched that this is not an example of dirty politics is an insult to my knowledge. It can be your opinion but I can image your frustration if I would to say crumb rubber causes cancer is far fetched.

        If Carin Chase voted No on the school board and attended the multiple City Council meetings where they discussed plans about the Meadowdale playfields, yes it would be far fetched. But she didn’t and voted YES when it was clear it was a final bid to use crumbrubber.

        Knowing that it is the School Board’s responsibility to make the decisions on what material to use and it is not the City’s decision is esoteric information. Do you know who would know this information, career politicians like Senator Maralyn Chase. Her and her daughter know this is a school board decision so they have no business bringing it as an issue with City. Unless they are using this to get the people Carin endorsed with the Democratic name. Check out the website, http://snocodems.org/ and notice how most districts haven’t posted their endorsements. But the positions for Lynnwood have been loaded for months and guess who is anti-crumb rubber? I know Laura your concerns are not about politics but I do think your friends are using your concerns and fears as political propaganda.

        I have already gotten insults from your group of friends that I spend time posting when I should be taking the time to take care of my kid. I don’t have time for this but I know most parents don’t either. I know most parents want crumb rubber in their play fields because they want their kids to play year round and not break an ankle. Please at least acknowledge that your passionate group is drowning out the voices of hundreds and hundreds of parents who do not have time for this. I do encourage you to voice your concerns but in a respectful matter.

  4. I agree with Laura. Why should we expose our children to toxic waste by putting it on playfields? One can not throw tires in the garbage so why would you want you kids eating and rolling in it? It seems to me, way to many crumb rubber venders were telling us “Hey it’s safe” Really? How come you didn’t offer to swallow a spoon of crumb rubber to show how safe it is? Could it be because it is toxic? As adults we need to stop thinking with our checkbooks and do the right thing and use cork. Do we want to look at the playfields 30 years from now and wonder if it was crumb rubber that gave our children some for of cancer? Either way we are going to pay. Let’s do it right the first time and use cork.

  5. I want my kids to play in field with crumb rubber. I do not want my kids to play in fields with untested cork, but if you do go ahead sister. You raise your kids the way you want, I will not judge you. I will also teach my kids to value experts in the fields then fear mongering adults who use the fear to get their friends elected to higher positions of power. But beware if you think for one moment I put a price tag on the safety of my kids. The right thing is to give the kids a safe place to play and the scientific experts deem crumb rubber safe. Crumb rubber has been used for over 25 years and used across the world. Go ahead and tap into the fear every parent has that they are putting their kids in harm way. I’m over the ignorant using fear rather then logic. Save yourself the time, we just disagree about this and your thousand bias links won’t change my mind.

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