School Committee Preps For Debate Over PFAS In Turf Fields

This will be a critical week for the Nantucket Public Schools’ $17.5 million campus athletic improvement initiative and the debate over whether it should include two synthetic turf fields.

Even as it marches toward a decisive vote at Town Meeting in May, the big ticket project has become mired in concerns over PFAS, the so-called forever chemicals that are suspected to increase the risk of kidney and testicular cancers, as well as other health conditions, and are used during the manufacturing process for turf fields. 

So all eyes will be on tomorrow evening’s School Committee meeting in the high school auditorium when it convenes for a workshop session to allow its members “to ask informative questions pertaining to the Campus Wide Master Plan Synthetic Turf Athletic Fields & PFAS.” The meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. and is being conducted in-person, will feature Superintendent Elizabeth Halllet; Wannacomet Water Company Director Mark Willett, Nantucket PFAS Action Group Representative Ayesha Khan Barber, Nantucket Land Council Executive Director Emily Molden, Board of Health Director Roberto Santamaria, Weston & Sampson toxicologist Marie Rudiman, hydrogeologist Steve Larosa, and the project architect, Richard Webb, of SMRT, Inc.

After some back and forth between School Committee Chair Dr. Tim Lepore and school administrators, another group of experts in the field of PFAS will be allowed to participate in the meeting remotely. They include: University of Notre Dame professor Dr. Graham Peasle; Michigan State University professor Dr. Courtney Carignan; East Carolina University professor Dr. Jamie Dewitt; Dr. Kyla Bennet of the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility; and Jeff Gearhart, of the Ecology Center. 

“This is a significant issue,” Lepore said. “I may or may not have made up my mind, but people need an opportunity to listen to this. I want to hear about the potential problems: does it leach out, does it make you have three headed kids? We’re not voting on this, but I want people to be educated about PFAS and the potential risks.”

The following day, school officials will head to the Select Board’s regular Wednesday night meeting to provide its members with an update on the campus-wide master plan project. You can watch and participate in the Wednesday afternoon meeting at this link.

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