Push for artificial field raises questions

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To the Editor:

This letter was also sent to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, Oak Bluffs planning board, and Oak Bluffs selectmen.
I am writing regarding the proposed athletic project at MVRHS. As some of you may know, I’ve been following this project for a few years. I became involved due to concerns about potential chemical exposure for our athletes. As time has marched on, more and more unanswered questions, combined with apparent willingness to accept insufficient data, ring more and more alarm bells. 

We now know more about the impact of plastics and chemicals on our water — both our aquifer and our ponds. The water we drink and shower in. The ponds that supply shellfish that many consume. The chemicals that will be absorbed into the skin of our young people as they use the artificial field. The chemicals will bake under the sun, emitting toxic effects into the air we breathe. The chemicals that need to be used to disinfect the field and maintain the warranty will spread around each time it rains. And I ask — why? 

Why is our school administration leading the cause to make this project happen? Why are they doing this in spite of all the potential risks, especially when those risks are life-altering? Or possibly, in the worst-case scenario, life-ending as in the case of cancer? What is acceptable in terms of risk? Why would we, the adults of the community, be willing to roll the dice on the lives of our young people and the Island they call home? 

This community has worked to support waste and plastic reduction, farms abound, we embrace organic food, many of us are vegetarian or vegan, we make informed health choices for ourselves and families — the list goes on, solar energy, electric buses, low-emission vehicles, and wind power. Why, oh why, are we willing to accept more than two acres of plastic fields? So many questions, so many unclear answers or unanswered questions. 

Lastly, I question the fiscal commitment that’s being made. We have been told the building costs will be covered by donations. If so, that should be public knowledge. However, the school refuses to say what conditions are being put on the donation, as well as what the terms of the donation are. Beyond that, what will the running costs entail? Maintenance? Liability insurance? Future replacement? The numbers are high. Should this commitment in such an uncertain time be made? 

In conclusion, we know the fields are in bad shape; something needs to be done, and we know they have never been well-maintained. No one has argued the need for improvement. A group of people has come together and began working on some of the fields in other locations, and they are starting to thrive. Why not put time, energy, and money into our existing fields at MVRHS, too? In fact, if that had been done at the outset of this process, our athletes would have been playing on healthy, nonharming, natural fields for a couple of seasons now. 

Susan Desmarais 

Oak Bluffs