Banned in Edmonds: No tire crumb rubber on public athletic fields for 18 months

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Edmonds City Councilmember Joan Bloom greets supporters of the just-passed 18-month ban on tire crumb rubber in Edmonds Tuesday night.
During a break following the vote Tuesday night, Edmonds City Councilmember Joan Bloom greets supporters of the just-passed 18-month ban on tire crumb rubber in Edmonds.

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.

Also attending Tuesday night’s council meeting was State Sen. Maralyn Chase, who represents the 32nd District that includes part of Edmonds. It was one of several appearances that the senator has made before the council on the crumb rubber issue, and on Tuesday night she thanked councilmembers for their work. “I’m so proud to live in Edmonds,” she said.
Chase said she hopes to eventually introduce legislation at the state level regarding crumb rubber, but first she wants to see the results of a comprehensive evaluation on the material now being conducted by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

“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.

14 COMMENTS

    • Unfortunately, those 2 fields will stay crumb rubber. The ban is for new fields and is not retroactive. If ESD did chose a precautionary approach, it is possible to suck out just the infill and replace it with a non-toxic option- it is not necessary to replace the whole field.

      • There is such a thing as a no grandfather ordinance. The likely result would be a challenge from ESD which the city could fight if they had the will. The school district was and remains obsessed with the use of crumb rubber and the city was complicit in a project that never should have taken place to begin with. The district especially deserves no quarter as ultimately the public will have to pay for future damages as a result of the use of this material. To remove the fields might mitigate some of the damage. This was a case of empire builders run amok.

  1. Thank you Edmonds City Council members, especially Joan Bloom and Lora Petso, for calling for a temporary ban! Also, thank you Laura Johnson, Maggie Pinson, Maralyn Chase, Jen Carrigan, Cam Peterson and many more citizens who worked really hard to get our message across in an understandable way.

  2. The City of Edmonds has set an example of precaution, in the face of uncertainty, and made the decision not to gamble with our health- this is an example which more communities will likely follow.

    I am thankful to my City Council Members for their UNANIMOUS support of a resolution that will provide some much needed protection from exposure to product which contains multiple carcinogens and chemical irritants, which have the potential to cause serious, irreversible harm to health….especially to those who are most vulnerable to toxic exposures- our children.

    Proud day for Edmonds!

  3. Sincere thanks and gratitude to those “change agents” on City Council and throughout our community for all of the thought, time, and effort on this socio-political issue.

    We’ve learned a lot over the past year — about the Precautionary Principle, the Public Trust Doctrine, the science, and how to deal with uncertainty — how to weigh risks and benefits (not just financial “costs and benefits” but the health of our children).
    What a great achievement!

  4. Thank you to all that worked very hard to make this happen! Thank you City Council for placing the citizens safety and well being at the top and first and foremost. Thank you for not using the public and paticularly our children as guinea pigs with this as yet to be regulated and scientificaly studied product.

    In my book, a huge step forward for the future of this city and the people we wish to share this small gorgeous spot on our planet with right here!………oh yeah, those birds, sea beings and all other living beings……right now jumping for joy in the sun in my front yard. This is a very good day for all! Thank you again.

  5. Great progress City of Edmonds! Thank you!! And thank you to all those folks who have stood up to the “bullying” that has gone on. You have set a great example for our children. We must love the “bully’s” and give them the opportunity to make progress for the good of our environment, our children and all citizens. Sorry the taxpayers may have to fund the corrections but just glad we are heading in the right direction. Headstrong , stubborn , and blind will is so bad…. It never pays off. Ever.

  6. As a high school coach I have been following along and trying to make sense of all that is going on. I have attempted to do research on my own to work towards an understanding of the issues. I, like most, want what is best for our kids. I have two that are still actively participating in sports that are year round endeavors on the turf available locally and across the state. I would like to take the most informed approach I can as a coach and parent.

    Can you provide me with links to the studies that show the organic fill is safer? Has there been any studies done in our NW environment to see if this organic fill won’t become laden with mold or fungi given the fact we experience the amount of consistent rainfall that we do? what about allergies to the organic fill? I really haven’t been able to find anything that supports this approach being safer, long term. I know that this will be studied in the the coming 18 months but I really am curious what is available today. I sure would hate to try to move to a safer material only to find out that it isn’t as safe as we thought.

    • Bill,
      E-mail me, wanpaf@yahoo.com, and I will work on getting you this info, specifically the science to support what you are asking I can also put you into contact with industry reps who can directly answer some of your questions. This is acknowledging that we can get necessary info from many sources.

  7. im glad the council did something so lets see we have a band on the rubber and the school boss is going to quit at the end of the year, Its kind of funny how that stuff works considering the fact the school district should have listened to the public and this whole thing should have never ended up with the council in the first place.

  8. The council is to be congratulated for their conclusion and I hope they will continue exercising the precautionary principle. Clearly, those exposed to the greatest concentrations of the material are person who use the fields, however we should keep in mind that the materials are not bound to the sites at which they are located. Wind and water are vectors for the transport of the light weight carbon nano particles and chemicals that make up this material. There is a potential for additional negative impacts at a distance via these vectors. As part of their ongoing commitment to a healthy environment, Seattle Parks Dept. has cited groundwater contamination, in addition to the direct contact concerns as reasons for their discontinuing the use of crumb rubber. Though the effects on plants and animals have not been well studied , existing research indicates that there is negative impact especially on aquatic organisms. This makes surface water an issue. Additionally, black carbon is now believed to be contributing to climate change. European Environment Agency, http://www.eea.europa.eu/highlights/black-carbon-better-monitoring-needed, 2015. The material should be removed from existing fields.

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