Note: This story originally was published at New Haven Register.
HAMDEN >> After four hours of arguments for and against the installation of a synthetic turf field at Hamden High School, the Planning and Zoning Commission adjourned Tuesday without taking a vote on the application.
Meetings must be over by 11 p.m., so the meeting was cut short as those against the application were making their case to the commission. The debate will be continued, likely at a special meeting, when the commission will then vote on the application.
Several spoke in favor of the synthetic field, including Mike Alissi, who said his two children have played on the surface for many years.
“From media reports, you would think there is a raging debate among scientists” over the issue, he said. “There really is not. What we have is a huge body of evidence” that hasn’t found any safety hazards, he said, “and on the other side we have speculation, concern and a lot of fear. It’s overwhelmingly clear that the level of risk is minimal. This is within the type of risks we take everyday.”
The commission’s decision should be easy, he said, in light of the lack of definitive proof that the materials are hazardous. But it’s a difficult task for the commission, he said. “It’s amazing that we have a citizen commission that is being asked to pass judgement on conclusions that are extremely difficult to judge if you’re not an expert,” he said. “You are being asked to second guess conclusions.”
It was only a few months ago that Myron Hull was sitting in a commissioner’s chair, but now a member of the Legislative Council, he spoke Tuesday as a resident. “Having been on that side not too long ago, I know what is going through your heads — questions of health and safety,” he said. But the commission should support the synthetic field because there’s been no hard proof of its dangers, he said.
Against the application was Nancy Alderman, the head of Environment and Human Health LLC, which is made up mostly of medical professionals from Yale who believe that the crumb rubber material is dangerous.
“There is no safer surface than grass,” she said. “The use of pesticides don’t compare” to the dangers of synthetic turf.
The physicians at Yale she works with all recommend that students don’t play on the turf, she said, because of the “mounting evidence of carcinogens.”
The arguments the Board of Education representatives made in favor of the field included maintenance costs, which they said are considerably less than for a grass field.
But Patricia Tabor of Environment and Human Health said that has been proven to be wrong. To properly maintain a synthetic field, crumb rubber needs to be periodically added in order to protect the players from concussions.
“Hamden cannot ignore the mounting evidence that shows these fields aren’t safe,” she said.