Kyla Bennett, director of science policy for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), has alleged materials for the proposed synthetic field at Martha’s Vineyard High School have already failed per- and poly-fluoralykyl substances (PFAS) specifications the school self-imposed on the project.
Bennett has alleged a May 2020 response landscape architect Chris Huntress gave to Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) staff about those specifications contradicts findings by Tetra Tech, the environmental consultant hired by the MVC for a technical review of the project. In a Dec. 22 email to Oak Bluffs health agent Meegan Lancaster and Martha’s Vineyard Superintendent of Schools Matt D’Andrea, among others, Bennett, who is a scientist and an attorney, alleged Tetra Tech found PFAS in samples taken from the type of synthetic field proposed.
“The response by Huntress,” Bennett emailed, “indicates that the project specifications ‘require’ that the artificial turf vendor provide third-party testing stating that they ‘do not use any PFAS chemicals currently listed as part of California’s Proposition 65 regulations, or identified as part of U.S. EPA’s Method 537’ to manufacture any part of the turf system …”
Bennett alleged testing by Tetra Tech, an environmental consultant hired by the MVC, found one or more chemicals listed in California’s Proposition 65 regulations or unearthed via the EPA’s Method 537.
“Tetra Tech found perfluoropentanoic acid (PFPeA) in the turf, at roughly 148 ppt. PFPeA is one of the 29 PFAS in EPA’s Method 537, so it appears that the proposed turf does not meet the project specifications … Moreover, if you look at Tetra Tech’s SPLP tests, they also found PFOA, as well as PFHpA, PFBA, PFPeA, and PFHxA. All of these are on EPA’s 537 list.”
In an emailed response to Bennett and local officials that was shared with The Times on Monday, Huntress directed inquiry to Tetra Tech.
“The test results that Ms. Bennett is referring to [were] prepared by Alpha Analytical labs under the supervision of Tetra Tech,” Huntress wrote. “Mr. Ronald E. Myrick Jr., PE LSP, CHMM, Karl Seibert, Project Geologist/Risk Assessor, and Ian S. Cannan, CHMM of Tetra Tech, were the team of scientists that provided a review and risk characterization of the finding for the MVC in their report dated Feb. 26, 2021. Tetra Tech are independent third-party scientists engaged directly by the MVC to review the selected turf products and the [sic] interpret the results. We respectfully request the Oak Bluffs Board of Health speak directly to Tetra Tech to better understand the results of the analysis and report.”
Huntress went on to write, “Our proposed project specification does require that the artificial turf vendor provide third-party testing stating that they do not use any PFAS chemicals currently listed as part of California’s Proposition 65 regulations or identified as part of U.S. EPA’s Method 537 to manufacture any part of the turf system. The proposed synthetic turf manufacturers, including the turf, infill, and resilient pad, DO NOT use PFPeA in the [manufacture] of their products. PFPeA is a five-carbon compound that is ever-present in soil, human bodies, wastewater, etc. Traces of PFPeA can be detected in countless consumer products, and can be a problem when test materials become contaminated by personal care products, for example, at these exceedingly small concentrations, we cannot know for certain whether PFPeA is ‘in’ a material (such as infill or synthetic turf fibers), or instead just seems to be there because it was transferred to that material during sampling, transport, and analysis. As mentioned above, we recommend that the O.B. Board of Health contact Tetra Tech and ask them their questions directly.”
Huntress also wrote that PFAS, PFOS, and PFPeA has been found in Nantucket soil samples.
“Specifically,” he wrote, “as identified in Alpha Analytical’s Oct. 19, 2021, testing results … they also found PFOA, as well as PFHpA, PFBA, PFPeA, and PFHxA in the existing topsoil samples at levels that were either at, or above, those found in the synthetic turf materials. This is not to say that topsoil should be considered harmful, rather that the amount of material we are discussing is exceedingly small, and the maximum concentrations reported are significantly lower than the (MA DEP) PFAS6 S-1/GW-3 standard of 300 ng/.”
In a telephone conversation Monday afternoon, Bennett said Huntress was spinning the data by ascribing the detected PFAS and related chemicals as contamination instead of manufacturing additives. Bennett described Huntress’ suggestion that contamination was at play as “disingenuous.” Bennett said all artificial turf PEER has sampled or reviewed has PFAS in it.
“The specs say no PFAS,” Bennett said of the school’s specifications. “There is PFAS.”
Bennett went on to say, “Yes, we do have PFAS in soil. It’s disturbing. It shouldn’t be there.”
Its existence, she said, wasn’t a reason to add more.
As to the minute levels detected, Bennett said PFAS will soon be measured in parts per quadrillion, so the argument doesn’t hold water for her. She added the minute levels may just be a representation of the test limits of the lab that did the work, not how much PFAS is actually there.
Ron Myrick of Tetra Tech didn’t immediately respond to a voice message and an email seeking comment.