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Board of Supervisors advances controversial crumb rubber turf testing

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is seeking permission from the Loudoun County School Board to collect samples of the controversial crumb rubber infill (CRI) at synthetic turf fields and to obtain services to test the material at three different locations.

The motion, recommended May 19 by Supervisor Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), additionally calls for getting the CRI from each of its three suppliers of the material at “different field maturities,” to test for potential carcinogens as well as other pollutants likely in the crumb rubber infill.

Safety concerns surrounding the recycled tire crumb used in playgrounds and sports fields around the country has been a heated topic in Loudoun.

More broadly, those concerns have prompted the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to launch a multi-agency action plan study in February to look into the “environmental human health questions” around the material.

“I understand there's a federal study. It's gonna take some time, two years at least. I don't wanna wait two years to find out what's in our crumb rubber here in Loudoun County,” Buffington said. “There's uncertainty in the public. They're bringing it to our attention, there's fear, there's news articles, there's reports.”

The Board of Supervisors approved Buffington's motion to approve $27,900 in the fiscal 2016 general fund balance for the CRI project. The motion passed 5-3-1, with Supervisors Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run), Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) and Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) opposed. County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (R-At Large) was absent from the vote due to an overseas economic development trip.

Ahead of the vote, county staff told the Board of Supervisors that the challenge to testing the turf fields was that there was no standard in which they could compare results. They said the “leap” was in determining potential health impacts based on the composition of the material which so far proved inconclusive.

Buona said he could not support the motion and cautioned that the alternatives to crumb rubber could be worse.

“We don't know that the alternatives are better or worse at this point in time,” Buona said.

The Ashburn supervisor said there are not yet any standards to test their results against.

“We don't know what levels of those carcinogens are right or wrong. We don't know that we can associate it to human health problems. All we're going to get is numbers that we can't benchmark against anything and that's where I have a problem,” Buona said.

The board's decision comes after the School Board recently approved an artificial turf field with crumb rubber infill to be installed at Potomac Falls High School, making it the 12th Loudoun County high school to have a crumb rubber field installed. Meanwhile, three high schools are on schedule to get synthetic turf fields by 2022.

Earlier in the year, LCPS staff members recommended installing crumb rubber to the board, citing a Loudoun County Health Department report. The report found that officials could not find a correlation between the use of rubber pellets and cancer in athletes.


–Times-Mirror staff writer Hannah Dellinger contributed to this story.

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