The Meadowdale Playfields renovation project will continue as scheduled, with crumb rubber as the infill material.
The Lynnwood City Council voted to accept the base construction bid for the project on Monday. The bid from Hellas Construction Inc. is for a total of $4.5 million, which will replace two multi-purpose soccer/lacrosse fields and three softball fields on the site. The multi-purpose fields and softball infields will be artificial fields with the controversial crumb rubber infill material. Activists say they are concerned about carcinogenic properties of the material and how it may affect children.
Lynnwood City Councilmembers approved the bid in a split 4-2 vote, with Councilmembers Shirley Sutton and George Hurst voting no. Councilmember Ian Cotton recused himself due to a conflict of interest as his firm is doing lighting design work for the project.
Before the vote to pass the project was taken, Hurst made a two-part motion: To request the Edmonds School Board consider changing the bid it accepted in May to one using cork during its meeting on June 13 and then for the Lynnwood City Council to hold a special session on Thursday to vote on the construction bid, to keep the project on schedule. The motion was not seconded.
Once again, the vote was held after over an hour of public testimony, both for and against the use of crumb rubber. Voices were split between those who wanted the bid to pass quickly so they would have access to all-weather fields for athletics, and those who wanted to see an alternate infill used on the project. Speakers included those of two children, one in support of crumb rubber and one against the material’s use.
Two Edmonds School Board members also spoke, one on either side of the issue. Board Member Diana White, fully dressed in Meadowdale Maverick gear, spoke in favor of renovating the fields quickly.
“Bottom line, we do not have enough all-weather fields to meet current demand. Period,” she said. “Do not cancel this project with a decision based in fear.”
Board Member Carin Chase urged the council to wait until after a national study by the Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Consumer Product Safety Commission before installing a crumb rubber field.
“I would like to move forward with the crumb rubber alternative (cork),” she said.
Councilmember M. Christopher Boyer said he decided to support the bid after a presentation given last week, where a toxicologist and an industrial hygienist shared evidence that crumb rubber is no more harmful than natural soil.
“The evidence presented was pretty clear and I thought compelling,” Boyer said. “I think we need to apply our consciences and our brains to work through this.”
Anti-crumb rubber activists say the two of the three experts who presented on crumb rubber last week are employed or funded by the crumb rubber industry, and the presentation covered studies the EPA says are insufficient to address safety concerns.
“I, too, support Meadowdale Playfields,” said activist Laura Johnson. “I support it with the use of cork.”
Councilmember Ruth Ross said it was not the job of the council to determine whether crumb rubber was safe, just to approve the bid. The Edmonds School Board has the final say in what materials were used as the owner of the playfields property, and the board unanimously voted to use crumb rubber on May 9.
“We can ask them to consider an alternate, but it’s their decision,” Ross said. “The saddest thing for me (would be) we don’t make this decision. We need to accept our responsibility and allow them to accept theirs.”
Councilmember Shannon Sessions emphasized that “we don’t live in a bubble,” and that one of the healthiest things kids can do is stay active. Artificial fields allow for year-round play.
Council President Benjamin Goodwin said he liked how widely studied crumb rubber is compared to cork infill. He, like Ross, also said it’s not the council’s duty to choose an infill.
“Our duty is to look at the bid how it is, and to vote on that bid,” he said.
Construction on the project will begin this summer and is expected to be complete before the end of the year.
The alternate infill material preferred by anti-crumb rubber activists is cork, which would have added an estimated $357,000 to the total project cost.
–By Natalie Covate