Griesemer Failed To Share Information On Proposed State PFAS Ban With Town Council


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State Senator Jo Comerford advised Town Council President Lynn Griesemer on December 8, following the Council’s vote to allocate supplemental funds for a renovation of the track and field at Amherst Regional High School, that she was seeking a total ban on the sale of all products containing PFAS in the state. Comerford is a co-sponsor of proposed legislation (SD2053) that would ban the sale in the Commonwealth of products containing any amount of PFAS. This would effectively prohibit the installation of artificial turf fields in the state, as all such fields currently manufactured or sold in the United States contain PFAS (see also here and here). Comerford said that she wanted to give Griesemer the “heads up” about pending legislation that could be consequential for the planned track and field project that includes an artificial turf field. Griesemer did not share this information with the Town Council, either at a meeting or in her written President’s report, nor did she share it with the Regional School Committee.

The communication between Comerford and Griessemer came to light in emails turned over to Vira Cage in a public records request seeking information about meetings not announced to the public that Griesemer had organized between the Amherst police and members of the Town Council. Comerford confirmed in a phone call with the Indy on January 26 that she had informed Griesemer about her efforts to ban all PFAS containing products throughout the Commonwealth. In that conversation she pointed to her commitment to addressing the grave public health threats posed by PFAS and the urgent need for action.  She said “we can’t wait to turn off the tap on PFAS”. She said she wanted Griesemer to know that she believes that “all PFAS must be banned unequivocally throughout the Commonwealth.” 

Regional School Committee member Peter Demling claimed in an editorial published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on December 11, and the Amherst Bulletin on December 15, 2022 that Comerford’s proposed legislation would have no bearing on the “minimal PFAS” in the material planned for the Amherst track and field project. Comerford subsequently asked Demling to print a correction, which he did on his personal Facebook page on December 16, stating that Comerfield’s bill “does not address artificial turf materials that do not contain PFAS”. However, he failed to acknowledge that at present, there is no artificial turf manufactured or sold in the United States that has been proven to be PFAS free, and those manufacturers that have installed fields that they have claimed to be PFAS free or low PFAS have ended up in court when the fields subsequently tested positive for significant levels of PFAS. (see here and here and here )

Griessemer also expedited a Town Council vote on the extra funding for the fields so that it was taken three days prior to the Amherst Board of Health issuing its recommendation against the use of artificial turf for the field, even though several Town Councilors had originally verbally requested a recommendation from the Board. The Board of Health voted unanimously 4-0 on December 8 stating, “Given the responsibility of the Amherst Board of Health under Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) for the protection of the public’s health and the protection of the environment from damage and pollution, we are using the Precautionary Principle that states if a product, an action or a policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, protective action should be supported before there is complete scientific proof of risk. Therefore, the Amherst Board of Health does not support the installation of artificial turf in the Amherst Regional High School’s athletic field at this time.”  

The Pelham Board of Health voted unanimously (3-0) on December 21 to recommend against installation of an artificial turf field at the high school. Pelham Board of Health chair Bill Pula stated 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”. 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.

The Amherst Regional School Committee voted on March 15, 2022 to adopt a motion that would consider only an artificial turf option for the track and field renovation. The discussion prior to the vote did not include any discussion of public health hazards associated with turf or the possibility of a future statewide ban of artificial turf. When school committee member Jennifer Shiao subsequently voiced concern about information that had been omitted from the committee’s consideration about potential public health hazards posed by artificial turf, Demling attempted to censure her for challenging a school committee decision. His efforts to censure her failed but the committee never took up the question of public health hazards or of how a possible future ban could impact the project.

“The actions of Griesemer and Demling look like an organized effort to suppress critical information needed to make an informed decision on this serious public health issue and appear to be a violation of the public trust,”  Maura Keene a local physician and supporter of the track renovation but opponent of the turf option told the Indy. She added, “It is a shame that the Regional School Committee and the Community Preservation Act funds approved by the Council do not allow for the option of a grass field.”

There are currently several bills before the Massachusetts legislature that aim to regulate PFAS in specific ways or to ban their use in the Commonwealth outright.  Other bills seek to ban artificial turf specifically, for multiple health, safety, and environmental reasons. Commerford is the author or co-sponsor of multiple PFAS related bills including Senate Bill SD2053, her most comprehensive, which would effectively ban all products containing PFAS. There are currently over 200 bills under consideration in state legislatures across the country to ban or highly regulate products containing PFAS.  

Next week,  the Indy will offer a report on pending legislation potentially impacting PFAS and artificial turf in Massachusetts and beyond, including a report on SD2053.

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16 thoughts on “Griesemer Failed To Share Information On Proposed State PFAS Ban With Town Council

  1. Thanks for this new report on PFAS issues with the design of the hew high school fields. I do not understand why senior Town officials either ignore or obfuscate critical legislation on this issue. Senator Comerford is a very smart and conscientious representative of our interests. It’s a major mistake to ignore or misrepresent what she has to say.

  2. I read this article with increasing distress. Why is fake turf, with its PFAS, still an issue? Its “public health hazards” mean that it can damage the health of the students who will play on it, and the health of those who will maintain it. Even if less directly, PFAS can damage the health of the rest of us. As the article suggests, PFAS-laced “turf” may also carry the risk of a lawsuit against the Town.

    Amherst public officials’ self-interest alone should therefore prompt them to nix fake turf. It’s past time that they do so.

  3. Amherst Town Council President Lynn Griesemer should resign immediately for her deceptions and disservice to the community at large. What a disgrace. We guess her behavior is in keeping with the deceitful political climate in our nation since the rise of far-right extremism but many of us in Massachusetts prefer our political leaders to behave honestly and in good faith. Obviously, Lynn Griesemer believes otherwise.

  4. The timing is important here.

    Senator Jo Comerford (and State Rep Mindy Domb) met with the Council President and Vice President, Lynn Griesemer and Ana Devlin-Gauthier, on December 8th. The Senator reported that, at that meeting, she informed Griesemer and Devlin-Gauthier of the upcoming legislation that could effectively ban artificial turf in the State through its ban on PFAS-containing products.

    Then four days later on December 12th, the Council deliberated on a PFAS resolution brought forward by Councilor Michele Miller, to send to the Regional School Committee to urge that they take a closer look at the dangers of artificial turf. The final resolution that passed was a watered down version of the original that had been presented prior to that meeting with the Senator. During this discussion, it would have been appropriate and transparent for Griesemer or Devlin-Gauthier to share information with Councilors on the upcoming PFAS legislation that the Senator had told them about just four days earlier, but they did not mention it at all. And, in a written President’s Report dated December 18, Griesemer detailed what was discussed at her December 8th meeting with the Senator and Rep but *noticeably omitted* the PFAS/Turf item that was on their written agenda.

    In the January President’s report, Griesemer yet again *did not mention the upcoming legislation*, instead only describing that she had informed the Senator about the Hurricane Booster’s fundraising for the turf project and the January Regional School Committee vote.

    I hope that these omissions and obfuscation by the Council President and Vice will be discussed at an upcoming Council meeting and suitable actions taken. The public needs to be able to trust that there is transparency in the actions of our representatives.

    Toni Cunningham

  5. Thanks Toni, for clearly setting out the timeline of what occurred and clarifying that it was not only Councilor Griesemer, but also Councilor Devlin-Gauthier who failed to disclose pertinent information. It was shocking enough to think that the public would not have known that this information had been withheld if the email from Senator Comerford had not been discovered as a result of a public records request made by Vira Douangmany Cage for emails related to yet another questionable action. Now we learn that there was an actual meeting between our State Senator and State Representative with Councilors Griesemer and Devlin-Gauthier and that this information on plans to ban artificial turf at the state level was shared and on the agenda and both Councilors subsequently withheld this information days later when the full Town Council voted to disperse funds for Amherst’s new playing fields. Frankly, this kind of obscuration is more the norm for tobacco companies. The earlier failure of the school committee for due diligence in researching the health impacts of artificial turf was later mitigated when school committee member, Jennifer Shiao stepped forward and brought the artificial turf health issue to light in time for the decision to be reversed. Ms. Shiao’s integrity in suggesting these health issues warranted a closer look was applauded by many in the community. When community members spoke up advocating for natural grass playing fields citing numerous reports on the health risks of artificial turf, including increased injuries to athletes, a negative impact on the environment as well as the economic downsides of being costly, needing to be maintained, and needing to be replaced in just 8-10 years, it seemed possible that reason would prevail. Unfortunately, there are some in our town who choose to double down and insist that bad decisions go forward regardless of the consequences to the town budget or even student health. Now we know that pertinent information will be withheld by town officials. I look forward to a time when Amherst government begins to make wise, informed decisions and is as transparent as it proclaims itself to be with “Open Government to the Max.” Sadly, that day is not yet here.

  6. This revelation underlines an important issue that deserves widespread attention before Amherst’s new form of government veers further towards autocracy operating in the shadows. The town council president is not a mayor, and I wonder if the other town councilors (let alone the public) were even aware that the Griesemer-Devlin Gauthier-Comerford-Domb meeting would be taking place.

  7. Government duplicity, the withholding of critical information, and the cherry picking of facts have become a hallmark of this government. Several instances have come to light and each marks a serious violation of public trust. We know that in the midst of a critical debate about whether to install an artificial turf field at the high school that Griesemer suppressed information about legislation that would ban all products containing PFAS including artificial turf. We know that the School Committee suppressed the presentation of data on the public health risks of artificial turf. We know that the library trustees suppressed the Popp Report that offered a less costly possibility for renovating the library using its existing footprint. We know that during the discussion of the proposed parking garage Councilors George Ryan and Evan Ross suppressed discussion of three parking studies that suggested that a parking emergency did not exist. We know that Councilors Ryan and Bahl-Milne referred repeatedly to a secret deal with a developer to build a parking garage at no cost to the town but we still don’t know the terms of the deal or who the developer is (though we can guess). We have no idea what else we don’t know – what information is being withheld, what secret deals are being or have been negotiated. The public has every right to regard the actions and statements of this government with suspicion. Given this dismal track record, it’s hard to imagine how this government could regain the public’s trust.

  8. Hello Indy readers,

    It was brought to my attention that I was mentioned by name in the comments on this post, and I would like to briefly offer some details I believe may be helpful.

    I would also like to strongly encourage all of you, if you have concerns about how councilors are doing our work, or if something seems not right, please always feel free to reach out and ask us directly for clarification.

    The following information can be verified through council packets and unofficial records of votes.

    Council members were aware of the bill Senator Comerford had previously and currently proposed, as it was expressly named in the original resolution that was brought forward to the Council on 12/5, which presumably we all read. That specific language was removed by the three sponsors in the version that came back before the council the following week on 12/12.

    The conversations with our state legislators are monthly. Councilors are aware of them and are invited to submit items they would like discussed.

    Should you want to talk further about this issue (or any others), I can be reached at All emails are subject to public records requests.

    I am not expecting people to agree with me all the time, there is a lot of good that can come from disagreement and debate, but I do not want disagreement to fester and be due either to misinformation or speculation that can be easily clarified.

    Ana Devlin Gauthier

  9. I did look at the Council packet for 12/05/2022, and saw in the resolution sponsored by Councilor Miller the mention of Senator Comerford’s bill, An Act restricting toxic PFAS chemicals in consumer products. Most of us have heard of PFAS chemicals, and many of us now know of their presence in artificial turf and the accompanying health hazards. But without knowing the specifics of this bill, likely most of us did not know that it would ban the use of artificial turf. It seems odd that, if councilors were fully informed of the contents of this bill, that they would deliberately pursue a course of action to install a product that, in addition to being a known health hazard, may soon not be permitted in the state. And if they did indeed know these facts, why did no one mention them as a matter of public record, or even raise questions as to how the current plan may conflict with future legislative action? This is not a matter of disagreement, but rather one in which important information that could have caused at least some councilors to take a different course was instead not disseminated by those in possession of it. When the public learns that a greater context was available to only a select few of a decision-making body, and that it was not shared openly in the public eye, it is easy to feel that there has been a suppression of information, and that the public trust has been violated.

  10. Thanks for responding, Ana, and filling in some of the blanks. I don’t question whether the town councilors were or should have been aware of the impending PFAS legislation, but I do believe that the monthly meetings with the state legislators could be held in a more public manner. At these meetings two district councilors are acting as a proxy for the whole town council which is charged with representing the entire town. The conversations taking place can be important and impactful.

    Why not make these open public meetings that anyone can observe and learn from?

  11. Jo Comerford’s new bill is more inclusive than the one cited on December 5, and she called Lynn Griesemer on December 8 to “give her the heads up” that the new bill might impact the planned track project. This was not mentioned prior to the vote on the resolution on December 12. Debate on Michele Miller’s December 5 resolution was stopped by Shalini Bahl-Milne who then worked with another pro-turf advocate, Mandi Jo Hanneke to take most of the clout out of the non-binding resolution. Unless Griesemer violated the open meeting law by sharing the information about the inclusive anti PFAS bill with the other councilors, I would say she withheld valuable information, and the 10-2-1 vote was an uninformed one. Also, Griesemer’s January President’s Report on her meeting with Comerford only concern the Boosters’ fundraising, not the increasing concerns about PFAS which Comerford said she raised at that time as well.

  12. The meeting with Griesemer, Devlin Gauthier, Comerford, and Domb was on 12/8/22. Comerford asked via an email dated 12/6/22 for PFAS and turf to be added to the agenda and Griesemer’s response was “Oh yeah”. Griesemer’s President’s Report on this meeting to the Town Council dated 12/18/2022 did not mention the discussion about PFAS or turf at all.—October-13-through-December-21-2022
    Neither was it spoken of at the 12/12/22 Town Council meeting when the resolution was discussed. Not only were other Town Councilors not appraised of this information, members of the public had no way to know that our State Senator though that this was important enough to ask that it be added to an agenda to discuss with Town leaders.
    The public records request has also unearthed Griesemer’s “rough notes” of this meeting (made available later than the other documents) which does include mention of PFAS and turf. However, the PFAS/turf section (item #6 of 12 in this document) was left out of the President’s Report (11 total items).

  13. At around 1h22m25s into the December 12 Council meeting, Jennifer Taub draws attention to the removal of the paragraph from the PFAS Resolution that mentioned Council support of state and federal legislation related to PFAS safety:

    One would think that would have been an appropriate time for Griesemer or Devlin-Gauthier to ensure that all Councilors and the public were aware that Senator Comerford’s NEW omnibus bill (referred to as the “Mass PFAS Act” in the 2/1/23 Gazette piece) was more broad than the one that had been referenced in the Dec 5 version of the Resolution, and could in fact impact artificial turf. Griesemer’s own notes from the meeting with the Senator and State Rep Domb acknowledged this: “Jo has filed a bill to ban all PFAS products. Bill would make alternatives necessary.”
    As has been mentioned above, Griesemer did *not* include this sentence in her publicly posted president’s report of December 18, or her January report. Why was that?

    It is difficult to follow but I think these links are to the correct Resolution versions. Spot the difference(s):
    Dec 5 Version of Resolution:
    Dec 12 Version of Resolution:—-Final

  14. SD2053 was filed on 1/20/23, Sen Comerford signed onto the bill on 1/23/23.

    The meeting in question was on 12/12/22

    Marcus B. Smith

  15. Senator Comerford reached out to Councilor Griesemer on 12/8 and asked that a discussion of PFAS be placed on the agenda of her regular meeting with the town council President and Vice President. She told the Indy that her intent was to give the council a “heads up” about forthcoming legislation that could have a bearing on the town’s track and field project. This was confirmed by Griesemer’s own notes memorializing the conversation (notes she did not share with the Council or include in her President’s Reports and which were acquired through a public records request by Vira Cage) that said “Jo has filed a bill to ban all PFAS products. Bill would make alternatives necessary.” While the focus of that conversation was on the then forthcoming omnibus bill SD2053, Senator Comerford is also the co-sponsor of multiple bills aimed at regulating PFAS.

  16. Hi all —

    I encourage you, when you are linking to relevant online documents, to also save copies of them, and upload them either here, or with the Internet Archive. Links to external documents go dead, on average within 6 months, so it’s important to archive copies of materials to maintain a clear and complete thread.

    If you want, you can install an “Internet Archive” plugin on your browser that makes archiving a website extremely simple — just click the icon on your browser. It’s available for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Edge — download it from here:

    or for your apple or android mobile devices from those stores (search “internet archive wayback machine” for the app)

    In the meantime, I’m uploading the three documents referenced in comments here:

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