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Turf war to continue

  • Written by Don Mann
It was not even on the night’s agenda, but one thing became abundantly clear at Tuesday’s city council meeting: the issue of installing artificial turf at the sports fields is far from over.

Four of the five citizens who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting were in lockstep in their position that the proposed surface’s alleged health hazards call for an immediate moratorium of its installation.

Not another word was mentioned on the topic until Councilmember Chuck Price broached the matter during his time to report, asking to add it to the September 15 agenda “in light of five facts: concerns of warning from the Center of Disease Control, lawsuits being filed against agencies installing these fields, citizens’ concerns for moratorium, the issue of (chemical) disinfection and the subsequent runoff and its impact on the ecosystem of the Sammamish River.”

When told the item was already proposed for the September 22 council meeting agenda, Price said “I’d like it added sooner than later.”

Mayor Scott Hageman said city staff was in the process of preparing a report on the issue and City Manager Richard Leahy added that he was trying to find “an authoritative source from a public health agency to aid in the discussion of that item.”

The topic remained on the September 22 agenda as scheduled.

Asked about the project’s construction status, Leahy said the contractor was to begin work on the front portion of the site — or the 133rd Avenue frontage — that very day.

He said the contractor would begin work on the actual sports field on November 1.

“I think we need to expedite this,” Price said. “This is a public safety concern and we should not treat the construction separate and blindly let that go on. If I had my way I’d put a moratorium on it today.”

Councilmember Don Brocha could not contain himself: “Wow, that’s unbiased,” he muttered audibly, and was met by a point of order from council member Hank Stecker, who claimed that Price had the floor.

“If anyone is not in agreement with that, that’s fine,” Price said. “That’s your opinion but I don’t know how you can ignore the public health issues that have been raised here ... and have been steamrolled through this council.”

Council member Jeff Glickman then spoke.

“I’ll add that it’s criminal,” he said. “Simply criminal and I mean that literally. You can’t do this.”

Glickman then told Leahy he wanted him to contact a Dr. David Brown from the Center of Disease Control.

“This is a very serious issue,” he said. “And I think this council is being flippant about it. And we’re gonna kill people.

“It’s just that simple. So I don’t want us killing anybody that lives in this city.”

Deputy Mayor Bob Vogt then gave his report, was interrupted by Glickman, but kept his poise.

“Nobody on this dais is an expert on this issue,” he said. “I respect my fellow councilmembers’ concerns about the health and safety aspects of the turf.

“But nobody on this council is an expert so everything is an opinion and there’s two sides to every issue so I welcome a good discussion. I believe in the end that this council has made a good decision to date and probably that decision will stand.”

Neither Hageman, Stecker, nor Liz Aspen spoke directly to the issue during their respective reports.

But Brocha did, claiming he had consulted the Web site www.SynTurf.org, which had been referred to earlier and at great length by a Woodinville citizen during public comment.

“I wish we heard about that a month ago,” Brocha said. “After reading through the index it was pretty much Councilmember Glickman’s hour-long presentation of a couple week’s ago ... He’s offered to provide the written documentation for the facts he read into the record so I’m looking forward to that.”

Brocha, who is not running for re-election, admitted that the synthetic turf issue was large and nation-wide, yet he attempted to provide some clarification.

“The New Jersey study where they found lead in the aged AstroTurf fields set off this lead scare,” he said. “When they looked at the polyethylene turf — which is the turf that we’re going to be buying — they couldn’t detect any lead in that. So it’s unfortunate that that study gets mixed up where the older turf that had lead in it is being misconstrued.”

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