BB&N Please Reject Artificial Turf at Grove Street, Watertown

BB&N Please Reject Artificial Turf at Grove Street, Watertown

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Elodia Thomas started this petition to Head of School, Buckingham, Browne, & Nichols School Dr. Jennifer Price

Dear BB&N,

Beginning in 2014 we, the residents of Watertown began a successful multi-year effort to reject a plan that would place a second artificial turf playing field at Victory Field. This community effort was based on the mounting scientific evidence that the plastic blades, industrial-grade infill, and a host of additives, including fire retardants, contain hazardous chemicals and heavy metals that are especially harmful to children and to residents of all ages with compromised immune systems.

Since 2014, the growing body of evidence that these chemicals are harmful to the environment has increased and intensified community opposition to this unnecessary substitute for state-of-the-art, organically maintained grass playing fields. Of special concern to us, regarding the BB&N site, is that stormwater runoff will carry the turf’s toxic chemicals into the Charles River.

Climate scientists tell us that we are trending toward more frequent and longer-lasting heat waves, more “100-year storms', more drought, and more flooding. On those same hot summer days, the green painted plastic blades on artificial turf raise the air temperature above the field, turning those fields into “heat islands.” Scientists at Columbia University analyzed thermal images of New York City and found that artificial turf fields were up to 60 degrees hotter than grass fields.

According to the EPA, “Heat islands contribute to higher daytime temperatures, reduced nighttime cooling, and heat-related illnesses.” [Heat Island Impacts -].

One might think that in the midst of a worldwide climate emergency, where protection of the environment is paramount, and while simultaneously in the midst of a devastating pandemic, with its end not yet in sight, choosing the healthy environment/ healthy immune system option would be a no-brainer.

The problem is money and marketing.

We have been here before. Three infamous industries: Tobacco, Asbestos, and Lead Paint, spared no expense in trying to convince the public that their products were safe. They ran ads, sponsored studies, lobbied all levels of government, and tried endlessly to place the burden of proof on their critics. All three succeeded for a lot longer than they should have. Eventually, scientific consensus turned the tide − just as scientific consensus finally turned the tide against climate change skeptics.

In every community, the artificial turf industry uses the same old tactics as the Infamous Three and they have gone one better. By enlisting the support of athletic directors, coaches, alumni, and local boosters − those who have easy access to decision-makers − the industry and its small percentage of community supporters enjoy a disproportionate advantage over the majority.

The industry and its surrogates argue that the durability of their product will bring more playing time for student-athletes. They also argue that their product will end up costing less than natural grass. Both arguments are demonstrably false.

Also false is any vendor claim that, at the end of the field’s useful life, of approximately 8 to 10 years, the field will be responsibly recycled. In reality, recycling this toxic waste is cost-prohibitive, so contractors unload the waste to sub-contractors who will often dispose of it irresponsibly and sometimes illegally. Wherever it ends up, it will go on polluting land, air, and water forever. None of it is biodegradable.

These are just the essential points. There is so much more to add, and it can best be done through dialogue.

Therefore, we respectfully request that BB&N, before committing to artificial turf fields, allow members of the greater Watertown community, to make our case for choosing the healthy environment/healthy immune system option: state-of-the-art organically maintained natural grass.

In the end, the decision belongs entirely to BB&N.

Thank you for reading this petition! We end this request with something to ponder.

Greta Thunberg ended her speech to world leaders at the Davos Summit with these words:

And again, I’m not here to tell you what to do. After all, safeguarding the future living conditions and preserving life on earth as we know it is voluntary. The choice is yours to make.

But I can assure you this. You can't negotiate with physics. And your children and grandchildren will hold you accountable for the choices that you make. How's that for a deal? [].

She was speaking to all of us. And she was speaking on behalf of a generation.


Elodia Thomas, Ph.D. & Bruce Coltin

We Are All Watertown

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