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School Board Discusses New Artificial Turf Field at MHS

Monday night’s school board included a discussion about the artificial turf field that is scheduled to be installed at the high school this summer.

The issue? A new round of concerns about possible health hazards for students who play on fields that are constructed with “crumb rubber” -- which is derived from ground-up used tires.

There have been a variety of studies over the years looking into whether athletes who compete on such fields are more likely to get cancer.

Due in part to lobbying done by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the federal government earlier this month agreed to undertake a "comprehensive" study into the matter, but results from the study are not expected until the end of the year.

Superintendent Matt Geary said he has been asked to meet with members of the town Board of Directors next week about the issue, and last night’s BOE discussion was added to the agenda so that school board members could “weigh in” with their thoughts.

Geary noted that more than 30 towns or schools in the state have fields built with crumb rubber.

A few BoE members said that were supporting the project as it is stands. In fact, board member Neal Leon said he didn’t know “what kind of Pandora’s Box we would open” if Manchester didn’t go ahead with the project. For instance, he noted that it would be hypocritical to determine that Manchester students could not play on crumb-rubber fields but still play away games on such fields. Colleague Jason Scappaticci noted that organic fields are fertilized, adding that allowing students to play on such fields comes with a different set of risks.

Other board members noted that some projects in other towns have been altered in the wake of long-standing questions about crumb-rubber. Some towns have opted to use acrylic sand instead of crumb-rubber -- a change that Geary said would be more costly for Manchester (tentatively $100,000 to $150,000 more). Another possible modification that has been used in the interest of mitigating health concerns: not using the field for three months after installation.

The upcoming federal study will involve the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Centers for Disease Control.

Manchester Public Schools 45 North School St, Manchester, CT 06042

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