SSC recommends natural turf for the SHS football field – requests a 2-year moratorium on artificial turf

Yes Vote is needed on Article 6 at Town Meeting on Nov 4, to authorize the Town to spend a projected $110 million on a new high school and athletic fields, as a new high school is very much needed and we are fortunate to receive a $53 million grant from the state to help fund this project. That vote allows the Town to spend the money any way that the committees decide, without resident/voter input. 

The current plan is to install an artificial turf football field inside the existing SHS track.  Sustainable Sharon Coalition and Plastic Free Sharon oppose this plan!    

We have delivered a 5 page letter with 33 references (available upon request) to the Standing Building Committee and Conservation Commission, as both committees have not yet voted on the artificial turf issue.  The letter can be downloaded here, and a summary of that letter is provided below.

Feedback or questions on the SHS building plan can be submitted here: https://www.shsbuilding.com/home/webforms/submit-questions.  
The current plan is to decide on the type of turf by December, purchase it in March, install it in June, and play on it next September.  So time is limited if we want to have input on the type of turf.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY – October 31, 2019

The Sustainable Sharon Coalition and Plastic Free Sharon are strongly opposed to the installation of an artificial turf field at Sharon High School because of numerous environmental, health and safety concerns.  

Synthetic turf contains toxic chemicals, including per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a class of compounds that includes over 4,000 chemicals. PFAS are a particular health threat, as they are highly persistent “forever chemicals” that never fully degrade and accumulate in our bodies and the environment.  Levels of PFAS are measured in parts per trillion, and are linked to increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis and high serum cholesterol levels.

Synthetic turf is made of polyethylene, 40,000 lbs of it, which is equivalent to 3.3 million shopping bags!  Over its 8 year lifespan more than 5,000 lbs of that plastic break off, due to constant exposure to sunlight, together with wear and tear due to trampling.  These plastic fragments are blown by the wind to surrounding wetlands, lake and woods, and are broken down further to microplastic.  After 8 years, the plastic turf carpet must go to a landfill, or be incinerated, at substantial cost.

The site of the proposed artificial turf field is over and immediately adjacent to a wetland that is regulated by the Sharon Conservation Commission under Sharon’s Wetland Bylaw and Wetlands Rules and Regulations, and the MA Department of Environmental Protection under the state Wetlands Protection Act and Regulations. The groundwater from the football field flows directly to three municipal wells that in 2018 provided 62% of our town’s drinking water!  This poses a real danger of contaminating our drinking water with PFAS, toxins and microplastics.

Our organizations recommend the use of organically maintained natural turf for the football field, and are asking for a two-year moratorium on artificial turf.  Occupancy of the new building is projected for 2023.  The moratorium will allow further study of the impact of these contaminants on human health and the environment so that residents and town officials can make an informed decision, which would also be based on a new MassDEP drinking water standard (Maximum Contaminant Level) for PFAS, which is currently being developed.

Additional information is available from:  Debbie Tatro; debbie@sustainablesharon.org.