WVN #239: Handling turf heat
- Dear Wayland Voter,
Health officials in Wayland and Weston are considering
measures to deal with high temperatures on artificial turf.
Even before Wayland's million-dollar FieldTurf High School field
was installed last summer, citizens had taken readings
elsewhere showing that even on moderate days the temperature
of the material can become hot enough to cause burns.
Wayland's Board of Health is considering posting warning signs.
Though high turf temperatures have been widely reported
across the country, and the issue was raised during the debate
over installing the field, the Board's action seemed to catch
some Wayland officials by surprise. When the Board wrote to the
selectmen about warning signs, Selectman Michael Tichnor
said at a March 17 meeting: "...I feel this kind of a sign is totally
unwarranted...there is no evidence that there's any additional
health hazard as a result of having a turf field...the evidence is to
the contrary...I would urge that we suggest that this sign not go
"I concur with you on that one, Michael," said Selectman Joe
Nolan. Nolan did support a study of the situation.
The Board of Health suggested signs warning: `Be aware that
direct contact with these surfaces by you, your children or pets
when the temperature is elevated may lead to contact skin burns
and/or heat prostration.''
``We recommended posting signs that warn people and
coaches before they use the field on hot days to make sure that
athletes are getting enough water and are not getting fatigued,''
said Wayland Health Department Director Steve Calichman.
Wayland resident Tom Sciacca told the MetroWest Daily News
that his numerous measurements at fields in the area included
a turf temperature reading of 142 degrees last Sept. 20 while the
air temperature was 76. He had recorded temperatures as high
as 156 degrees on other fields.
In Weston, Public Health Director Wendy Diotalevi said, ``We
definitely have had discussions about when the field can be
used and when it can't be.''
In addition to surface temperature, she told the News, "at 120
degrees the field starts off-gassing chemicals.'' FieldTurf is
made from pulverized truck tires.
High turf temperatures have been reported in nearby towns. At
Acton-Boxboro High School and elsewhere, for example, fields
are sprayed with water to reach playable temperatures. In
Newton, Mayor David Cohen has promised measures "to
ensure the safety of all users" of synthetic turf fields in the city.
In Utah the Brigham Young University Health Department has
established 120 degrees as the maximum acceptable turf
Weston's field was installed with private funds. Wayland used
$300,000 in Community Preservation Act funds. The remainder,
about $700,000, came from private donations. A pending
Superior Court suit filed by Wayland residents contends that
conservation funds can't legally be used for the field.
Wayland's turf supporters earlier downplayed potential
problems with temperatures or environmental consequences.
Residents who were concerned that runoff from the field could
endanger town water supplies filed an appeal, and ultimately the
town agreed to measures imposed by the state. The town hasn't
yet demonstrated full compliance with commitments to the
Department of Environmental Protection to protect the Happy
-- Michael Short
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Michael Short, Editor