The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night imposed an 18-month ban on the installation of turf infill made of recycled tires on all public athletic fields in Edmonds.
According to the ordinance passed by the city council, the ban will go into effect in 30 days and will run through July 2017. The ordinance also calls for the council to hold a public hearing one month before the ban ends — in June 2017 — to receive public input on whether it should be extended or ended.
“The Edmonds City Council took an unbiased look at the whole picture, weighed all of the available options and potential for harm, and ultimately chose precautionary measures to protect human and environmental health,” said Edmonds parent Laura Johnson, who has been leading the effort for the citywide ban.
By imposing the 18-month ban, councilmembers “have also chosen to lead by example,” she added.
The original ordinance called for a one-year ban but was extended to 18 months on an amendment by Councilmember Lora Petso. The new legislation also calls for monitoring the status of ongoing and new research into the health effects of crumb rubber, engaging an independent consultant with appropriate expertise to review the research that has been completed; and providing a report that includes the latest authoritative information.
“I’m ecstatic,” said parent Jen Carrigan, who for months has been attending council meetings to express her concerns about the tire crumb rubber material, which contains known carcinogens but has not been definitively linked to cancer. “I am so proud of my city council.”
Tuesday’s vote follows months of public testimony before the council and discussion among councilmembers about possible health and environmental impacts of artificial turf made of recycled tires. The issue first surfaced in Edmonds last spring after citizens became aware of a plan by the school district, under an agreement with the city and the Verdant Health Commission, to tear out natural grass fields next to the former Woodway High School (now known as the Woodway Campus) and replace them with crumb rubber artificial turf as part of a three-phase sports complex.
Following an outcry and protests, efforts by crumb rubber opponents to convince the school district to install an alternative infill failed, and two of the fields were installed over the summer. Two more fields are planned for the same location, although there currently isn’t funding for that phase of the project.
“I think that’s what we have to wait for,” she said. “We have to do due diligence.”
City Councilmember Joan Bloom, who along with Petso had led the charge for the crumb rubber ban, also attempted later in the meeting to remove the remaining portion of the Woodway Fields project from the city’s Capital Facilities Plan. Bloom made the case that because of the 18-month ban, the city wouldn’t be implementing the project anyway, and that it could be restored to the plan later if the council saw fit.
But Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said she was hopeful the city could work out some type of demonstration project with the school district on the remaining fields, perhaps using an alternative field turf like those suggested by crumb rubber opponents. “I don’t think we should limit ourselves to what might be done in the future,” Fraley-Monillas said.
“Everyone should have a second chance, including our school district,” added Councilmember Mike Nelson.