Pelham Board Of Health Says No To Synthetic Turf At Amherst Regional High School


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The Pelham Board of Health voted unanimously (3-0) at their meeting on December 21, to recommend that  the Amherst Regional School Committee reject the use of artificial turf on the Amherst Regional Schools playing fields.  In their discussion they cited concerns about the potential for PFAS, chemicals which are known carcinogens and “forever chemicals” that do not break down in the environment and which are found in all synthetic turf fields, to contaminate the water supply and to pose a possible health hazard to the athletes.  Chair Bill Pula expressed sympathy for local athletes who have been without quality playing surfaces for some time, but noted that installing a couple of acres of non-recyclable plastic instead of natural grass seemed to be “the wrong way to go as we try to take climate change seriously”.

In attendance were the members of the town’s Community Preservation Act (CPA) Committee who had voted  (0-4-2) on December 15 for an appropriation for the fields, denying a request for $54,380 to go toward the construction of a synthetic turf field at the high school.   Also in attendance was Stephanie Hochman, a Pelham resident, who spoke on behalf of the Amherst High School Athletic Boosters who advocate for a synthetic turf field and who have been raising money for the project.

The Amherst Board of Health voted unanimously (4-0) at their meeting on December 9, to not support the installation of artificial turf in the Amherst Regional High School’s athletic field.

The Amherst Town Council voted (10-2-1) on December 5 to allocate $900,000 from FY 2023 free cash to support the redesign of the high school track and its enclosed field, with a provision that the school committee would have the option to install either synthetic turf or grass on the infield.

Pula reported that the Pelham Board of Health’s concern about PFAS and the water supply was heightened because in a recent sampling of 40 private wells in Pelham, eight (20%) tested positive for PFAS.  Pula noted that a regional sampling program also turned up PFAS in private wells in Shutesbury and Leverett.   He indicated that PFAS testing and abatement is neither simple nor inexpensive.  Pelham has joined the regional Coalition for Safe Drinking Water as part of an effort to better understand threats to local water sources and the means to protect them.  The state report on PFAS in private wells can be found here.

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