As North Haven youth athletes get ready to compete on brand new fields, their parents are in a battle over whether the project is safe.
Unless something changes, the new fields will be made of a synthetic material called “crumb rubber.”
Some parents say it will improve player safety but others feel it could put kids at risk.
“My goal personally is to make sure my kids are playing on fields that aren't loaded with carcinogens and teratogens,” said Amanda Gabriele.
Two new fields that are scheduled to be installed by the end of the year at the site of the old North Haven middle school are set to be made up of crumb rubber, a mix of synthetic grass and tire shavings.
“On the surface, crumb rubber makes total sense because it's a recycled material and it's going to help our players not get injured so much and it's going to be less maintenance on our fields so I understand those points,” Gabriele said.
But she, and other parents who protested at a town meeting this week, are concerned because there have not been any federal safety tests done on crumb rubber.
Right now, the Environmental Protection Agency is studying to see if the fields cause health issues, so critics want the town to wait.
“My point is why don't we just wait, take a breath until the science comes in or if we don't have time to take a breath, let's just choose a different infill material,” Gabriele said.
However, supporters of the project like North Haven Youth Football League President David Mikos say the project needs to move forward for safety reasons.
He says some of the old grass fields are dangerous because they are damaged from overuse.
“Player safety is our first concern always to the fields that we play on,” Mikos said.
He also points out the federal testing has been delayed in the past and there is absolutely no evidence crumb rubber fields are harmful.
“We can only go by the information that we have today and the information that we have today is that is that the levels of concern are below the state and federal guidelines,” Mikos said.
North Haven's first selectman agreed with Mikos and says the project must move forward because it was part of the approved middle school budget.
Critics say they may file an injunction to stop it.
In the meantime, parents like Mikos and Gabriele have the goal safety. Some believe the best way to achieve it is patience. Others think a decisive action is needed.
“I would just say, for the sake of us all, let's just take a beat and be cautious,” Gabriele said.
“We cannot continue to play on the grass fields with the hours that we do currently and expect the fields to remain safe,” Mikos said.
At this point, no injunction has been filed but critics say they are weighing legal options.
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