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WVN Newsletter #185: Could turf harm wells?

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  • waylandvoters1
    Dear Wayland Voter, Special Town Meeting voters will confront complex, long-term environmental issues as they decide a controversial proposal to install
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 3, 2006
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      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.

      MEETINGS

      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
      project.

      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 remainder.

      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
      said.

      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
      water supply.

      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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      Michael Short, Editor
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