On Monday, May 22, the Lynnwood City Council will decide whether or not to award a construction bid, which will include crumb rubber as the preferred material, for the Meadowdale Playfields renovation project.
The Lynnwood City Council briefly discussed the project as a memo item during Monday night’s business meeting. The project, using a crumb rubber infill, is listed on the council’s consent agenda for Monday, May 22. The Edmonds School District, which owns the land the playfields sit on and has final say in the materials used for the project, approved crumb rubber use on Tuesday, May 9. The district will further discuss the renovations during its regular meeting on Tuesday, May 23.
Local activists opposed to the use of crumb rubber infill aren’t backing down. An anti-crumb rubber rally is planned for Monday, May 22 at 6:30 p.m. outside Lynnwood City Hall.
“The product has many of us concerned, particularly around children, because the science is inconclusive. We do not know,” local activist Laura Johnson told the Lynnwood City Council during a special meeting on Wednesday, May 17.
According to the rally’s Facebook event page, organizers want to see cork infill used on the field, the only organic infill product considered for the project.
After base construction bids to renovate Meadowdale Playfields came in nearly $500,000 higher than expected, it appears unlikely that officials will approve a more expensive, alternate infill on the fields.
The City of Lynnwood has found several options, including excess capital project funds from other recent projects, to make up for the difference to fund the base bid, which includes crumb rubber as the field’s infill. However, an alternative infill would require extra dollars.
According to the low bid by Hellas Construction, Inc., which would win the bid if approved Monday, coated crumb rubber would cost an additional $66,900. Natural cork infill would cost an extra $357,000.
The City of Lynnwood does not expect its partners in the project, the City of Edmonds or the Edmonds School District, to contribute extra money.
“Lynnwood would have to make up the gap for an alternative substance,” Sarah Olson, the City of Lynnwood’s deputy parks and recreation director, told the City Council on Monday.
Olson also said getting an alternate substance approved by the two partner entities could take time, which could put the entire project at risk. There is a time limit on the low bid before it expires, and some grants awarded to the project also have time limits.
Councilmember Shannon Sessions mentioned there are eight fields in the Edmonds School District that already use crumb rubber infill, including Lynnwood High School and Meadowdale High School. Ten local youth and athletic organizations in the area, including Pacific Little League, Sno-King Youth Club, Edmonds Eagles Lacrosse Club and Edmonds Lacrosse Club, have all submitted letters of support for the project to the City of Lynnwood.
Over the past months, however, residents have voiced their preference for alternative infills, citing concerns regarding crumb rubber’s known content of heavy metals and other toxic materials. Parent advocates have voiced concerns about their kids coming into contact with the materials while playing sports. Others are worried runoff from the fields could be harmful to local wildlife.
Crumb rubber opponents look to the cities of Seattle, Shoreline and Kenmore, which have all recently installed artificial fields that use organic cork for infill.
Earlier this year, Julia Garmire, who lives near the playfields, posted signs urging her neighbors to share their concerns with the Lynnwood City Council and partners on the project.
Crumb rubber has been a topic of debate for a few years in southern Snohomish County. After some community members protested the Edmonds School Board’s decision to use crumb rubber infill on sports fields at the Woodway Campus, the Edmonds City Council in December 2015 passed an 18-month ban on public athletic fields made with the material. In April, the Edmonds council voted unanimously to extend the ban for another six months, until February 2018.
A study released earlier this week by Maryland-based Jenkins Environmental Inc. found that children playing on crumb rubber fields have a cancer risk at or below one in one million, the Everett Herald reports.
A Washington State Department of Health (WSDOH) study released earlier this year found no direct correlation between playing on crumb rubber fields and the cancer rate among soccer players. However, critics say the study uses too small of a sample size and more research needs to be done. The EPA is conducting a broader study that is expected to have results available later this year.
The study by the WSDOH also included recommendations for athletes to wash their hands and change their clothes as soon as possible after playing on crumb rubber fields. Because of those recommendations, the Edmonds School Board recently discussed installing signs at artificial fields outlining best practices for those playing on the fields.
A highly anticipated national review by the Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Consumer Product Safety Commission regarding crumb rubber risk is still underway.
–By Natalie Covate