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The Buffalo News (New York)
Two new athletic fields planned in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District will be infilled with crumb rubber as originally planned, after a federal report last month offered no new revelations about potential health effects of the material made of recycled automotive tires.
In October, the Ken-Ton School Board agreed to adopt a "wait-and-see approach" on whether to use crumb rubber to infill artificial turf planned for Kenmore West High School and Crosby Field while it awaited a status report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
But trustee Thomas J. Reigstad, who first raised the concerns, said that the report was inconclusive and recommended that the district move forward with its original plans for crumb rubber, also known as styrene-butadiene rubber.
"In the end, our wait-and-see approach did not interrupt the project, and it cost the district nothing," said Reigstad, co-chairman of a subcommittee formed to look into the issue.
The subcommittee looked at alternatives to crumb rubber and also the added costs of installing them.
Synthetic EPDM rubber, or ethylene propylene diene monomer, also known as "virgin rubber," was deemed the most realistic alternative. EPDM is considered a premium alternative to crumb rubber and is what the Williamsville Central School District settled on in early 2016. But Reigstad said that much more is known about shredded crumb rubber than EPDM.
While the EPA's report did not make a determination on the health safety of crumb rubber, the agency said that it would continue to analyze tire crumb samples collected from fields and recycling facilities. Results of the research on synthetic fields are expected sometime this year.
Meanwhile, work to install artificial turf at Kenmore East High School's Adams Field has already been completed, with crumb rubber as the fill. Adams should be available for spring sports, said John J. Brucato, Ken-Ton's assistant superintendent for finance.
"We still have the rubber surface to put down on the track," Brucato said, noting that crews need 10 consecutive days of 50 degree or warmer temperatures for the rubber to cure.
The track at Crosby won't be torn up until the one at Adams is completed, Brucato said. "We do not want to leave the track-and-field teams without somewhere to practice," he said.
The three turf fields are part of a $21.7 million capital project approved by voters in 2014.
Board President Jill Y. O'Malley said she wanted to dispel any perception that the project was delayed due to the board's concerns.
"I believe we can say that we did our due diligence," she said. "We really had hoped for more definitive results that did not come."
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