Council votes to delay decision on Woodway fields interlocal agreement

State Sen. Maralyn Chase speaks to the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night.
State Sen. Maralyn Chase speaks to the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night.

Even before the nearly two dozen people testified about the pros and cons of tire crumb rubber artificial turf being installed by the Edmonds School District at the former Woodway High School, the Edmonds City Council unanimously voted to postpone a decision on the matter.

Following a motion by Councilmember Tom Mesaros, councilmembers decided to wait two weeks to vote on whether to pursue an interlocal agreement under which the city would schedule, operate and maintain the fields.

Councilmembers agreed that they wanted more time to study all sides of the issue, which has been generating community debate since last spring. Both councilmembers and staff noted that the decision could have further ramifications for city-school district relations down the road; in particular, the city is currently negotiating with the school district to purchase Civic Center Stadium, located between 6th and 7th Avenues, a site that is heavily used for local activities including the annual Fourth of July fireworks and the A Taste of Edmonds festival.

City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite told the council that the issue comes down to the city’s role as a partner — not only with the School District, but with the Verdant Health Commission and the State of Washington, both of which provided funding for the fields project. In addition, the city has had “a longstanding and successful partnership” with the school district to use fields for city programs, including the Meadowdale Playfields, the Madrona K-8 field and Edmonds Elementary.

Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas noted that she and fellow Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis and Mike Nelson met with School District Superintendent Nick Brossoit Monday, and Brossoit “made it very clear that if we do not enter into this partnership with the school district, that the school district will no longer consider the City of Edmonds a partner in this — and potentially other — items,” Fraley-Monillas said. “We will not have any say over these fields and that includes scheduling them, what occurs when neighbors have issues — I mean they [the neighbors] will have to take it totally up with the school district if there are problems.”

That led Councilmember Joan Bloom to comment that “we are being strong-armed by one person — the Superintendent of the School District — and four school board members. That’s five people that are holding us hostage and saying that if we don’t enter into this ILA (interlocal agreement) with them and use the product that many, many people think is hazardous, that they’re not going to cooperate with us in future endeavors.”

Councilmember Lora Petso added that she was hopeful that all parties would come to the table to talk about the possibility of using a different type of artificial turf — which parents opposed to the crumb rubber surface have been pushing for — as well as giving the council control over future turf field installations in Edmonds.

Crumb rubber turf is used widely in sport fields both statewide and nationally, and experts say that currently available research indicates the material is safe to play on. But parents and students attending Edmonds Heights K-12 School, which is located next to the planned project, along with neighbors living near the fields, have been raising health and environmental questions after recent anecdotal reports of cancer clusters among soccer goalies who have played on the crumb rubber surface.

For several months, project opponents have been urging the school district to delay action on the project jointly sponsored by the district, the City of Edmonds and the Verdant Health Commission. There have also been issues raised about the environmental impacts of the sports complex. The Pilchuck Audubon Society has said the fields are a nesting area for resident and migratory birds and also noted that the school district — as the lead agency for the project — did not develop a plan for mitigating the runoff of potential contaminants from the crumb rubber into local creeks and eventually, into Puget Sound.

In addition, a neighbor living the project has filed appeal to overturn the Edmonds City Council’s land use decision regarding the property.

Hite noted that the school district has been using tire crumb rubber turf on its fields since 2001, and “has assured the city that it has done its due diligence” in researching its safety.” The school district has already begun work to install two fields at the former Woodway High School site, and “will move forward whether we sign an ILA or not,” Hite said.

Hite then introduced Elizabeth Black, a consultant hired by the school district to review current research on crumb rubber turf safety. Black noted that while the district had suggested a total of 32 studies, she expanded her review beyond those, focusing on both actual (confirmed by science) and theoretical health risks of the tire crumb rubber. Actual health risks included the fact that the turf gets very hot and can also cause friction burns when athletes fall on it. The theoretical risks, Black said, are more difficult to prove due to a lack of sufficient research. “There is a need for additional data,” she said.

Studies acknowledge that the tire crumb rubber contains “hazardous constituents,” but what has not been demonstrated is that there is “an exposure pathway by which the constituents can enter the body and do damage,” she said.

Following Black’s summary, the council moved into the public hearing phase. The speakers — nearly evenly divided between those supporting the project (including youth coaches and parents who reiterated the community’s need for more turf fields during the Northwest’s rainy months) and opponents (many of whom said they supported artificial turf fields, just not those made of tire crumb rubber.

Also offering testimony were two elected officials — School Board President Diana White, who said she was proud of the board’s 4-1 decision to support the project after vetting the issue, and State Senator Marilyn Chase (D-32nd District) who reiterated her plan to address crumb rubber turf safety during the 2016 legislative session.

In other action, the council:

–Held a joint meeting with Snohomish County Fire District 1, which provides fire and emergency medical services for Edmonds. A separate summary on that meeting will be published soon.

– Heard a presentation from the Snohomish County Health District.

– Agreed to move to next week’s consent agenda an ordinance amending the 2015 budget.

The council also appeared ready to adopt the city’s 2015 Comprehensive Plan, but that action was abruptly delayed after councilmembers were unable to get a super majority to vote to extend the meeting beyond 10:20 p.m.

As a result, the remainder of the agenda — a resolution adopting the 2016-2021 Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program and an ordinance amending the Edmonds City Code provisions relating to council committee meetings — also weren’t considered.



  1. ” strong arm” is the perfect word to use……….

    one does not have to go far to see a school district unresponsive to its families and their concerns of childrens safety in regards to this issue right now in my opinion and to me run amok regarding a very important issue. …..recently a very large school district had run amok for a time…….I believe if I remember correctly they got rid of those that had run amok…..children should always come first in my book and particularly their safety or any questions regarding it…….any questions regarding it

    I say how much money are we talking about here? In the face of any possible risk to our children, why would the school board still want to move forward?…..particularly if Verdnt said it would pay for something else. …..why move stubbornly forward with so many questions regarding safety…….

    Just because there is a national association, institutes, etc. crumb rubber, the fact that this is an UNREGULATED product says everything and somebody tell me Im wrong about those same ol’ tires being whole and designated as toxic material……

    oh, we want to hurry up so the fields can be used…….doent seem like a good reason to continue on a path that the EPA says “needs more studies”……

    Perhaps someone needs an investigation done on this…….this all feels fishy
    and if the school board leaders are saying something along the lines of EITHER/OR…….let me say again, Wow!!…….feels fishy

    “vetting the issue”…….I say lets see a list of the professionals weighing in on the safety of using this so somebody can investigate or research this……to do a double check on that “vetting” is in the interest of transparency

    and to think of the irony that we have a quote in brass on the bulkhead at the beach at Bracketts Landing ……..Rachel Carsons 1960s Silent Spring that was a landmark work……..toxic ddt…..and what toxic chemicals do to the environment. …….and THAT was 50!!! years ago.

    1. interesting choice of words……certainly rings threateningly…… this what “Have an Edmonds Kind of Day”…….really means. Oh, trust me, people outside of litte Edmonds are paying attention ……some that dont even live here…..

  2. Does the school board and the superintendent know that on June 30 the state of California signed a $2.9 million contract through CalRecycle, the state program that promotes reduction of waste, on June 30 with the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to complete a study on artificial fields using crumb rubber infill, which will be paid for through the same $1.75 tire recycling fee that funds the grant program?

    The study will determine what chemicals are released from crumb rubber and whether they pose health risks. Unused crumb rubber and artificial grass blades as well as artificial turf fields of various ages and at different locations across the state will be tested. Researchers will consider the effect of ingesting and inhaling the material as well as skin exposure to it in children and adults.

    A recent Yale study, has found 96 chemicals that include carcinogens, respiratory irritants, eye irritants, and skin irritants in the crumb rubber infill used in synthetic turf and rubber tire mulch used to surface toddler playgrounds.

    “Not surprisingly, the shredded tires contain a veritable witch’s brew of toxic substances. It seems irresponsible to market a hazardous waste as a consumer product,” said Gaboury Benoit, Ph.D., Yale professor of environmental chemistry and engineering and a lead investigator of the study.

    Also, Amy Griffin, associate head soccer coach at the University of Washington, is keeping a list of athletes diagnosed with cancer who have played on artificial turf fields containing crumb rubber infill. As of July 17, 2015 the total number of soccer players who played on synthetic turf with cancer is 127 and of those 85 were soccer goalies.

    The school superintendent, the school board and most importantly parents of young children who will play on school fields should know these facts before they decide whether their children should play on crumb rubber mulch or infill.

  3. There is an election coming up with one school board position on the ballot. Just as you would vote with your money if you don’t agree with the ethics or practices of a business, you should use your vote in any election to effect change if you don’t agree with the present circumstances.

    I no longer have a child in the Edmonds School District but from all that I have read about crumb rubber fields on the internet, I would agree that caution and more research are needed to be sure the children in the community, and all their opponents coming from someplace else, are not in any risk of health issues with this field surface.

  4. Thank you Senator Chase and 32ndLD Chair Caren Chase for attending this important meeting. and … Thank you Theresa Wippel for the excellent report. As a “multi-year” citizen and tax payer of Snohomish County, the Edmonds School District and the City of Edmonds … I am unalterably opposed to the ILA. The School District has a “deeper pocket”! Let them do the right thing for the residents bordering the Old Woodway High School site! Securing the Civic Play Field (in the Bowl) for the City of Edmonds … should be the priority.

  5. The City of Edmonds has an Interlocal Agreement with Fire District 1 to cooperate with each other to provide high quality fire and emergency medical services to the public in the most efficient manner possible.

    Under the City’s Interlocal Agreement with Fire District 1, the District Fire Chief and the City Mayor and/or their designees shall act as administrators of the Interlocal Agreement for purposes of RCW 39.34.030.

    It is supposed to be a cooperative effort.

    Have our Mayors met their responsibilities as administrators of the Interlocal Agreement?

    Mayor Earling made the following statement about the controversial retroactive pay raises during October of 2014:

    ” It was also agreed that the timing of increases and how they were communicated to all three cities that contract for fire services — Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace and Brier — “was handled poorly by Fire District 1”.

    I believe that the Mayor and/or his designees should have had knowledge of the status of the pay raises and should have jointly communicated such to the City Council and the citizens of Edmonds.

    Why would one public agency be surprised by the other public agency’s conduct when they are jointly charged with administering the cooperative undertaking?

    Furthermore, as part of this cooperative effort, The District Fire Chief and the Mayor are required to present a joint annual report to the Edmonds City Council prior to July 31. I have been unable to find any evidence that the District Fire Chief and the Mayor have presented a joint annual report to the Edmonds City Council prior to July 31 in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

    Tuesday night was when one would think they would do so for 2015, but instead the District Fire Chief and his subordinates appeared to present an annual report by themselves.

  6. Furthermore, the City and FD1 agreed to an amendment to the Interlocal Agreement on January 27, 2015. The parties agreed that “Commencing in February, 2015, the parties agree to meet and discuss options for assessing the Agreement and to address potential amendments to the Agreement that may be desired by either party.”

    Tuesday night, a Fire District 1 Board Member represented that FD1 has been trying to meet (to continue to discuss options to the ILA) with the City. Apparently, the City and FD1 met once in March but FD1 has been unable to get the City to agree to another meeting date.

    Why is the City not doing what it agreed to do in January?

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