The reservoir's historic structures & ecosystems are an opportunity to create a unique environmental education center for our children & their future.

Monday, February 9, 2009

More Toxic Turf News

I've been posting news articles related to the heat and toxins associated with artificial turf fields because it directly relates to the NYC Department of Parks plans for the reservoir. Several new articles were published within the last 24 hours and, as many expected, it doesn't look good for the parks commissioner. This is from "Metro NY":

Toxic turf troubles park
by Patrick Arden / Metro New York

Feb 9, 2009

Lead levels at an artificial-turf soccer field shut down in December were much higher than the city reported, exceeding EPA safety limits by as much as five times. The Parks Department now wants $40 million in federal stimulus aid to “reconstruct deteriorated and potentially hazardous” fields.

The city’s put 111 fields in parks since 1997, nearly all during the Bloomberg years. Health concerns have haunted the rubber fields, made from recycled tires, which have been found to contain not only lead but chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects. The City Council holds a hearing on a turf moratorium today.

The city began testing turf in late 2008. Last week, Parks said new tests of 94 fields “found no further evidence of elevated lead levels.” It refused Metro’s request for results.

Dr. David Brown, former epidemiologist for the Conn. Dept. of Public Health, reviewed city tests of the closed field. Of 31 samples, 16 had elevated lead, but Parks averaged its results, lowering the final number. “All of the numbers have to be under regulatory limits, not half of them,” said Brown. “Why they’re doing it is beyond me. It almost is like, ‘Let’s make this problem go away.’”

(Photo: © Joel R. Kupferman/NYELJP/NYC Park Advocates)

New York City's Commissioner of Park & Recreation, Adrian Benepe, has some interesting logic in his varying responses to the findings:

The WINS 1010 story reports, "...the Parks Department says new tests found no further evidence of elevated lead levels and rejected the call for a moratorium. "The contaminated field at Thomas Jefferson Park is promptly being removed and replaced," said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. "Thankfully, this appears to be an isolated finding.""

Fox-NY writes, "City officials said none of the 88 other fields they tested had unsafe amounts of lead."

In the New York Daily News are the commissioner's curious claims that, "Because it's light-colored, Benepe said he hopes the sand won't heat up the way crumb rubber does. "For high-impact sports, grass isn't practical," he said."" He probably doesn't understand that one of the reason grass fields are so cool is due to the natural process of transpiration by plants. Also, for impact-related injuries, it has been shown that natural fields are safer.

In an article in the New York Times, Mr. Benepe, "challenged the notion that artificial turf runs counter to the mayor’s vision of a leafier, greener New York, noting that a field made of recycled materials could be more environmentally friendly than grass, which requires pesticides, herbicides, aeration and millions of gallons of water. “The so-called natural field leaves a large carbon footprint,” Mr. Benepe said. “You won’t find a lawn in nature.” [...] The beach gets hot too,” Mr. Benepe said."" But aren't beaches made out of sand, the material that he told the Daily News will, hopefully, make the turf cooler? FYI, Mr. Benepe, grassy habitats are referred to as "grasslands" and they exist in nature in lots of places. I'd like to see an evaluation of how much pesticide and herbicide is used on city-owned sports fields. Knowing the deplorable condition many of the fields are in, I'm guessing not very much. Besides, there are many less harmful alternatives to what he implied is being used.

Regarding the conservation aspects of artificial turf and the mayor's plans, below is an excerpt from a 2006 letter sent to Mayor Bloomberg's Long-Range Sustainability Planning Office. Written by Urban Heat Island Effect experts Dr. Stuart Gaffin and Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig it identifies four physical reasons why artificial turf gets extremely hot:

1. In trying to simulate grass coloring, the manufacturers employ dark pigments. Using an approximate albedo meter we recorded albedos of only 7%, meaning only 7% of incident sunlight radiation is reflected from the surfaces. Such low albedos are comparable to freshly laid pitch asphalt.

2. There is a filamentous structure to the turf surface, simulating grass blades again, we assume. These filaments however also lower the albedo by creating micro light traps.

3. The surfaces are impervious so that no water vapor from the soil can evaporate. And since they are non-living there is obviously no transpiration of water either. This also means that turf may be contributing to the urban runoff problem and combined sewer overflows, depending on where the runoff flows.

4. The surfaces are low mass and "cushion-y", for obvious reasons. The low mass means that they heat up very rapidly in sunlight, as compared to dense surfaces.

You can find many links to artificial turf articles and studies here.

Send us an email

No comments: