WVN Newsletter #185: Could turf harm wells?
- Dear Wayland Voter,
Special Town Meeting voters will confront complex, long-term
environmental issues as they decide a controversial proposal to
install artificial turf. Forthcoming meetings include more
discussion of the project.
Wednesday, Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m., large hearing room, Town
Building. The Planning Board welcomes your views on the Town
Center design. (Scheduled to be broadcast on WayCAM.)
Wednesday, Oct. 4, 7 p.m., Council on Aging room, Town
Building. The Board of Health, Conservation Commission and
Surface Water Quality Committee sponsor a presentation on
cutting energy bills by "Greening your existing or new home."
Tuesday, Oct. 17, 7:30 p.m., Council on Aging room, Town
Building. Park and Rec Department public meeting on the turf
Thursday, Oct. 19, Town Building. Continuation of Conservation
Commission hearing on the turf project.
BOARDS PONDER ARTIFICIAL TURF
The Board of Health and the Conservation Commission are
studying the potential impact of artificial turf at the high school
football field. Voters will decide on Nov. 9 whether to authorize
$300,000 even if the boards can't reach conclusions by then.
The ConCom has the power to stop the $1 million project.
Donations solicited by the Wayland Boosters are expected to pay
The Community Preservation Committee, which controls funds
collected under the Community Preservation Act, endorsed the
project on Sept. 27, clearing the way for a town vote. Initial
controversy arose over the legality and appropriateness of using
CPA money for what is essentially replacement; state officials
categorized it as maintenance. Voters who believe that
preservation funds weren't intended for this can express their
view at the November special Town Meeting.
Health and conservation officials will now consider another
controversy within their areas of responsibility. Though artificial
fields are in wide use around the world, the newest materials
have been in service for only a few years, and long-term health
concerns have been raised. In Wayland, the major question is
the environmentally sensitive location, near the federally
protected Sudbury River, the Great Meadows National Wildlife
Refuge and wells supplying nearly half the town's water.
The ConCom heard a proposal from the Wayland Boosters' turf
consultant, Gale Associates, on Sept. 21. Then two Wayland
residents summarized studies and their own on-site
investigations at Lincoln-Sudbury and Acton-Boxborough
regional high schools, which installed the same material that
Wayland is considering. They concluded that runoff "drainage"
from the field and, more importantly, increased runoff from the
parking lot could render the nearby Happy Hollow wells
unusable. Other locations in Wayland might be acceptable, they
Though there are concerns about the potential harm to wetlands
and the river, including a strong statement from the manager of
the National Wildlife Refuge, town wells were the major focus.
Tom Sciacca, an engineer, former ConCom member and local
environmentalist, said that the Happy Hollow wells are over the
allowable limit of sodium, increasing the system-wide level
close to the legal maximum. He raised the specter of Wayland
losing its wells as Weston did years ago. He and Kurt
Tramposch, whose professional background is in public health,
showed samples of water darkened by runoff containing
pulverized tires from the other high school fields.
Their argument assumes that if the field becomes the
most-used playing surface in town as planned, more cars will
use the parking lot, increasing runoff of vehicle fluids and road
salt. Proponents say the number of cars won't increase
markedly, though the field would become available for rental
more often than at present.
The top layer of the field is expected to need replacement in
12-14 years, at considerably less cost than the original
installation. The Boosters project that the town will come out
ahead financially because of lower maintenance costs.
Bill Seymour of Gale Associates answered a number of
questions, but time ran out before the Boosters could respond.
The Commission will continue the hearing on Oct. 19. The
Boosters have compiled a stack of studies at least as high as
Tramposch and Sciacca's. It was pointed out that many pro-turf
studies were sponsored by the industry while many anti-turf
studies came from firms that install grass on playing fields.
Existing installations discussed so far don't mention a specific
site like Wayland's where the field drains directly into a public
A tape of the Sept. 21 hearing will be broadcast on WayCAM,
local cable channel 9, at 7:40 p.m. Oct. 11.
The Board of Health issued a seven-page list of concerns before
hearing from the Boosters and Gale on Sept. 26. When Craig
Foreman of the Boosters said that the water supply wasn't within
Board of Health jurisdiction, the board corrected him.
Some board members asked for reassurance that the materials
in the turf aren't inherently harmful. The material, which is loose
and easily dislodged, has been installed on fields in the U.S.
and abroad, though opponents said it is banned in Norway. If
this technology turns out years from now to be harmful, Wayland
would have a lot of company. Board members expressed greater
concern over water supply.
Looking ahead to the next ConCom hearing, proponents are
campaigning by email and a letter to the Town Crier. Chris
Reynolds' OneWayland email newsletter advocated packing the
Oct. 19 hearing and ignoring a "small but vocal group of
naysayers (that) has foisted rumors upon the project." (Voters
may remember this approach from earlier campaigns on other
issues.) Boosters president Foreman implicitly criticized the
ConCom in a letter, saying that the commission had allowed a
"filibuster" by those raising health issues.
Thoughtful voters will be looking for impartial, convincing,
science-based answers. Is there a measurable risk to the town
wells and protected natural areas? Is Wayland doing its duty
under the law to protect water supplies? Is there a chance that
Wayland one day will have to shut down its wells and rely on the
expensive state-controlled alternative?
-- Michael Short
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor