KUSI NEWS: Turko Files- Turko Exposes Plans to Irragate Artificial Turf
Monday, February 9, 2009 – KUSI's Michael Turko has learned that the San Diego School District is about to spend thousands of dollars on sprinkler systems for artificial turf athletic fields. Turko says his investigation shows the money for the project was buried in the huge Proposition "S" bond program for school improvements.

The school district says putting in sprinkler systems on artificial turf makes sense. And they claim it was included in the voter information on the two billion dollar Prop "S" bond program. I couldn't find it, and it came as a big shock to almost everyone I talked to, including school employees. But they're moving ahead with the plan in the middle of a statewide water crisis!

Thursday, July 10, 2008
Drought ignites artificial turf wars
Residents hoping to install fake lawns to save water and get rebate are hampered by city bans and restrictions.
The Orange County Register

GARDEN GROVE – Strangers often pull over and admire Cookie Smith's front yard. The lawn is green, plush and looks too good to be true.

That's because it is.

"We've had a water problem for a long, long time in California," said Smith, 60, a Garden Grove resident. "So, my husband and I decided to do our part by putting in artificial turf."

But now Smith is caught in a bind. A Garden Grove ordinance that bans artificial turf on both commercial and residential property makes her beloved lawn illegal. At the same time, the Municipal Water District of Orange County's water efficiency program offers a rebate to county residents who install synthetic turf in order to encourage water preservation.

Garden Grove residents like Smith who install artificial turf can't get the rebate. That dilemma stretches across Orange County, where the cities of Santa Ana, La Palma, Stanton and Orange have similar residential and commercial bans, according to a water district document. Ten other OC cities have various synthetic turf restrictions and guidelines and many homeowners associations across the county ban and restrict turf as well.

Synthetic turf opponents often cite aesthetics as a primary reason for the restrictions.

So far, seven of 97 county households have been denied water rebate applications because of some sort of synthetic turf ban, said Darcy Burke, spokeswoman for the water district. Other households have not installed turf in the first place because of the bans.

Synthetic turf can save around 45 gallons of water a year per square foot of grass replaced, which can add up to thousands of gallons per household, experts say.

"Synthetic turf is just one option a homeowner or a business could pursue,'' Burke said. "We as the water district respect that each agency and the city have unique needs.''

Newport Beach resident Dave Ewles understands the synthetic turf controversy all too well. Ewles will soon be removing nearly $12,000 worth of synthetic turf he installed in his front yard almost two years ago because it is not allowed by his homeowner's association, the Newport Hills Community Association.

Ewles and the association have reached a financial settlement, but he said something needs to be done about synthetic turf on a statewide level to help clear the confusion.

"There needs to be some kind of legislation that takes it out of the hands of associations,'' he said.

Smith expressed shock that cities and homeowner associations would ban a water-saving device at a time when California is in such a "dire" water situation. Indeed, in June, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed a statewide drought and issued an executive order calling for an immediate reduction of water consumption across the state.

Smith is among those across the country taking part in the rapidly growing artificial turf industry. Her high-quality turf, which looks similar to real grass, cost about $10,000.

Some OC cities are embracing the new high-quality turf. Irvine, Lake Forest and Mission Viejo have begun to use turf on city property such as medians. Dana Point, Huntington Beach and Laguna Hills encourage synthetic turf as long as samples and photos of proposals are provided beforehand. In April, Anaheim's municipal code was revised to allow turf as half of the landscaping required in front of homes.

Anaheim city planner Jessica Loeper said that the city's Planning Commission recommended the code change to allow for turf as a part the city's "green" efforts.

"We're trying to look at our water quality, how much water we are using," she said.

Garden Grove is examining its turf ban as well. Public Works Director Keith Jones was recently alerted to the 1992 ordinance.

"This has brought it to light for Garden Grove to look at our ordinance because obviously things have changed since 1992," Jones said.

He acknowledged that synthetic turf available these days looks much better than in years past.

But Jones said he does not want to be hasty in getting the ordinance changed. The key if the turf ban is lifted, he said, would be in making sure that there are guidelines ensuring high quality and a layout that keeps runoff from washing contaminants into the gutter and to the ocean.

Garden Grove resident Marlem Mason said he hopes the ordinance will be updated soon. Mason, 76, installed artificial turf after seeing Smith's yard. The turf installer told him about the water district rebate program, so he sent in the paperwork. Although he did not install the turf to receive the rebate, he became angry when he found out the ordinance would keep him from receiving a rebate check.

"It's unfair because every city is a member of the water district," he said. "During these times of water conservation, this all seems so silly."

As for Smith, she recently she began a letter-writing campaign to government and city officials calling for the ban to be lifted. To her, it's about water conservation, not the rebate check. In the meantime, no one has told her she has to remove her prized turf. But if they do, she's ready.

"I'm a child of the 60s," Smith said. "If I have to lie in my lawn when they try to come and tear it up, I will."

Associated Press – January 30, 2009 11:24 AM ET

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Kinnick Stadium may get a new playing field.

The University of Iowa will ask the state Board of Regents next week for the OK to replace the natural grass with artificial turf at the home of the Hawkeyes' football team.

Information about the $2 million drainage improvement and turf project is included in the regents' agenda for Tuesday in Ankeny.

Athletic Director Gary Barta says the stadium's 20-year-old drainage system needs to be replaced – it doesn't drain because the tiles are plugged.

Barta says the turf is a new technology gaining popularity in the NFL and at the college level, and the Hawkeyes won't notice a difference.

Athletic department gifts and earnings would cover the cost.


February 8, 2008

POWAY: The city will implement a water conservation program that includes rebates for artificial grass.

In a 4-0 vote Tuesday night, with Mayor Mickey Cafagna absent, the council endorsed staff recommendations that include education programs for students, a neighborhood water-abuse reporting program, and a rebate of $1 per square foot for artificial turf.

Resident Dan Krall asked if the rebate could apply to AstroTurf, which he said is much cheaper than other types of artificial grass. The council told water conservation administrator Kristen Crane to investigate the request. –A.L.

How Green Is Artificial Turf?

It doesn't need mowing. It doesn't get muddy. And it's always ready for play.

Little wonder, then, that more and more high schools and colleges across America are opting for artificial turf over Mother Nature's fickle, high-maintenance grass for their athletic fields.

"It's a lot safer," says David Barbera, president of Artificial Turf Supply, a nationwide supplier based in Dalton, Ga. "It's more of a consistent surface, a softer field to play on, so they're seeing a lot less injuries."

Further, fake grass lasts a lot longer than the real thing, which needs constant watering, pesticide application and upkeep.

"Well-conditioned natural grass can only take 50 events a year," says Richard Kryztof, project manager at A-Turf Inc., a supplier of artificial turf in Cheektowaga, N.Y., near Buffalo.

That was too much for nearby Amherst High School, where students play football, lacrosse, soccer and field hockey to the tune of some 350 athletic events per year. The school purchased fake fields from A-Turf, which means it now saves a lot on sod.
traditional grass.

Proponents say the $700,000 a football field it can cost may be worth it, because the surface is level, a ball can move better and the players can move a little faster. And regardless of rain or snow, the field stays playable.

But many environmentalists aren't buying it. They don't like that the fake turf is composed of polyethylene fibers made to look like grass, which are in turn anchored by rubber pellets made from chopped-up automotive tires.

"We are talking about large tracts of land, football field-sized pieces of land," says Patricia Wood, executive director at Grassroots Environmental Education, a non-profit group based in Port Washington, N.Y., near New York City. "When you add them up, you are talking about a significant loss of natural turf."

Because natural grass can sequester carbon dioxide, replacing it with plastic doesn't help the fight against global warming, Wood adds.

She also points out that because artificial turf is prone to heating up — some estimates figure it can hit 160 degrees Fahrenheit on a hot day — and raises the temperature of the entire playing area, it could make scrapes and bruises even worse.

Environmentalists say that heat also may unlock a lot of nasty fumes from the ground-up tires underneath, which would be inhaled wholesale by hard-breathing athletes.

Nonsense, says Kryztof, who says study after study has failed to prove anything dangerous about the installation of, or playing on, artificial fields — which, he claims, help reduce pollution.

"Any way you slice it, you have all these tires and what do you do with them?" he asks. "You either put them in a landfill or you keep them going as long as you can."

The debate's not limited, of course, to between self-appointed "greens" and, um, "plastics."

Over the past four decades, professional sports teams have embraced early versions of artificial turf, then backed away from them, and then popularized them again as quality improved.

Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., provides a good example. Originally laid with an early version of Astroturf in 1976, real grass was installed in the stadium in 2000.

But that natural surface wore out quickly during each football season — the stadium does double duty as the home field of both the New York Giants and the New York Jets — and a newer, more resilient kind of artificial sod, FieldTurf, was installed in 2003.

By 2006, 13 NFL teams played in home stadiums with artificial fields.

But that may not make players happy. According to a 2007 report by the NFL Players Association, 61 percent of 1,511 players polled had negative reviews of artificial surfaces, with many believing artificial surfaces were more likely to cause injury and shorten players' careers.

There may be something to that. A 2005 New England Journal of Medicine study found a high rate of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus, or MRSA, bacterial infection in artificial-turf scrapes among St. Louis Rams players, though it blamed the transmission of the bacteria on sloppy hygiene rather than the turf itself.

There's also "turf toe," a common athletic injury to the big toe made more likely by hard surfaces, such as older forms of artificial turf.

Then there's the problem of cleaning the stuff. Blood, sweat and spit are easily absorbed by natural soil, but on artificial turf they've got to be swabbed down with disinfectants and detergents, then mopped up.

Perhaps the biggest environmental hazard from artificial turf is in its disposal, Wood says.

Synthetic turf on school athletic fields needs to be completely replaced after eight to 12 years, but the old turf will never disintegrate, she points out, adding that it's already been banned by some landfills.

Still, Wood admits that fake grass is the right choice for certain locations, such as indoor or domed fields and urban playgrounds that have blacktop or concrete lying beneath.

Both artificial-turf proponents and environmentalists agree on one thing: It's still early in the game for a firm conclusion on its impact on health and the immediate surroundings.

"There's a lot of pressure [to come up with a solid answer]," says Neil Lewis, executive director at Neighborhood Network, a non-profit environmental organization on New York's suburban Long Island. "And we are doing this without a lot of information, which I think is a mistake."