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Fields closed because of lead will reopen

>Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Last updated: Wednesday August 20, 2008, EDT 1:03 AM


Staff Writer
Two Northern Valley Regional artificial turf fields that have been closed since June because of high lead levels will reopen.

The Board of Education voted 5-to-4 tonight to immediately reopen the fields in Demarest and Old Tappan on a condition that the district follow a guideline from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That recommendation calls for young children to wash their hands after playing outside, especially before eating.

The district will also continue to restrict children under 7 from playing on the fields.

The board was “unanimous’’ in wanting the fields to reopen but differed on the standards — state or federal guidelines – that should be followed, said Board Member Raymond Wiss.

While the federal recommendation calls for hand washing for younger children, the state guidelines recommend children under 7 be restricted from playing on the fields, that all athletes shower and wash their clothes after playing on the fields and that the fields be watered down before play.

Board Member Leonard Albanese said the cost for equipment to water down the fields alone would be $26,000.

Board Member Kyung Hee Choi voted against the measure, saying she believed the district should follow the state guidelines, especially watering down the fields.

Superintendent Jan Furman recommended reopening the fields and following the state guidelines after the consumer product safety commission concluded recently that the lead in artificial turf fields poses no risk to children.

“After learning what the federal agency had said, I now think it’s safe,’’ she said.

The fields were closed in early June following the discovery of lead levels as much as 15 times higher than the state safety standard for residential soil. They were among seven in Bergen County that had been closed because of high lead levels. Numerous districts and towns have tested their fields after the state health department found lead levels that exceeded the standards on fields in Newark, Hoboken and Ewing.

The Northern Valley fields will reopen immediately and in time for the start of football practice at both schools on Friday. The board will discuss the use of the fields by sports clubs next month.

The board also approved participating in a Rutgers University study at no cost to the district that will assess lead and other metal concentrations on the fields and exposure levels.


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