Montville Township Committee Special Meeting
Tuesday, May 7, 2008, 7:00 p.m.
Montville Township Municipal Building, 195 Changebridge Road, Montville, New Jersey
7:00 p.m. – Statement of Open Public Meetings Act Compliance read by Chairwoman Deborah Nielson: “As required by the Open Public Meetings Act, adequate Notice of this meeting has been provided which Notice specified the time and place of the meeting to the extent known at that time. The Notice was posted on the bulletin board at the Municipal Building, mailed to The Daily Record, The Star Ledger, and The Citizen as well as other newspapers and it was placed on file in the Township Clerk’s office. This meeting has been properly noticed to the public in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act.”
Present: Committeeman Art Daughtry
Committeeman James Sandham, Jr.
Committeewoman Jean Bader
Committeeman Tim Braden
Chairwoman Deborah Nielson
Also present: Frank Bastone, Township Administrator
Frances Vanderhoof, Director of Finance
Thomas Mazzaccaro, DPW/Water & Sewer Director
John Wozniak, Health Officer
Maryann Witty, Recreation Director
Martin Murphy, Township Attorney
Gertrude Atkinson, Township Clerk
Pledge of Allegiance led by Chairwoman Nielson.
Chairwoman Nielson stated we are here tonight to share with the public information we have regarding the issues surrounding lead and the artificial turf fields at Camp Dawson.
We voluntarily tested these turf fields in our town for lead as a result of recent concerns in the media surrounding lead. We have been proactive in this regard, and we were not mandated to do the testing. We want assurances that our fields are safe for the public. I have children who play on these fields, as do other members of the Township Committee. We want our children safeguarded, as well as your children, and the public. As a parent, I personally want to understand the risks, the facts, and the issues surrounding lead and the potential for at-risk to our kids and whomever may use those fields. Also, we are mindful that these fields lie on top of the Towaco Valley Aquifer, and we want to be assured that there are no risks or what risks, if any, are posed to the aquifer to safeguard our drinking water supply.
This evening we hope to provide information to you and together come to a consensus as to what we should do regarding the Camp Dawson fields going forward. The sequence of events will be our Administrator, Mr. Frank Bastone, will give a chronology of what has transpired during the last week or so. Then we have an expert here from our environmental testing firm, Mr. Pat Guilmette from PMK, who will go over the testing procedures and the results. Then we will have questions from the Township Committee members, some of whom are just receiving this information this afternoon. We have updated test results today. Then we will open it up to any questions or concerns from the public.
Frank Bastone, Township Administrator, stated the Township has attempted to be as transparent as possible in this process. We have tried to keep information flowing, getting it out to the residents as quickly as possible via the website, with notices, meetings, e-mails. After we became aware of the turf field issue, which basically was news that came out of the State Department of Health & Senior Services having issues with a number of fields containing lead in New Jersey, we were concerned about the possibility of lead being in two of our facilities, Community Park and Camp Dawson. On April 14, I personally contacted both Field Turf, who was the company that manufactured the turf at Community Park, and General Sports Venue, the company that took over for SRI, who produced the turf for Camp Dawson. I had assurances from both those companies on April 15 that the lead is not in the polyethylene fiber. The turf at Camp Dawson is a material called astroplay, which is made out of polyethylene. Regardless of that, the Township went ahead and proactively took samples at both fields to make sure the citizenry was protected. On April 17, the Health Department took samples – core samples – a cross-section of the turf. On April 29, we got test results back and found that there was lead in the core samples at Camp Dawson. Samples were taken both from the field and from product stored at the DPW. We contacted our insurance carrier, JIF, who contacted the environmental consulting firm of PMK. Pat Guilmette of PMK is here this evening. On April 30, we contacted the NJ Department of Health & Senior Services about how to proceed. They instructed us to implement the four restrictions on the field: watering down the field for dust suppression; not allowing children under the age of seven to play on the field; bathing of people and washing of clothing of people who use the field; and dust samples. That same day, we contacted the sports groups who use the field at this time. We had a meeting that evening with those sports groups. On May 2, PMK came in and took five different types of testing samples. We even tested the parking lot. On May 5, we received the results for all but one sample. They all came back negative. We, again, put that on the website and sent a notice to the newspapers about this evening’s meeting. We then took additional core tests as late as yesterday. We sent them to three different labs to be very sure of the results. Core testing came back this afternoon positive, which means they are above the threshold for lead. We had a meeting to discuss those results. At that meeting, we discussed what to do, and I am going to discuss with the Township Committee that we had communication from the NJ Dept. of Health on procedures that should be followed based on the fact that we did the vacuum test, the wipe test, and tested the actual blades of grass. All of them show no indication of lead, which means whatever lead is in the underlying material in the mat is not getting out. Based upon that, we are confident that people are not being exposed to lead. I am going to ask Pat Guilmette to address the technical issues of the testing.
Pat Guilmette, PMK, displayed and described the turf: the field itself is on a dirt sub-base. Then there is rubber backing, a matrix base/binder, in-fill material, and the blades of grass. The initial testing was core (all the way through the material itself into the soil), vacuum, and wipe. The vacuum and wipe samples came back negative. The parking area was tested – they came back well below the State guidelines for lead. Since there was a conflict in the two test results, we went ahead and tested again – core samples and the actual stock at the DPW yard. They were sent to all three labs. There was a wide range in the sampling results. We compared the results with the product data sheets. The source of lead was identified to be in the root matrix. We don’t see that there is a breakdown in the root matrix or see any concentration of any leaching into the dust.
Bastone stated we have been making considerable efforts to get some direction from the NJ Dept. of Health & Senior Services. I am happy to point out that today at 3:20 p.m. we received the following e-mail from Mr. James Brownlee, MPH, Director of Consumer & Environmental Health Services. The e-mail was sent to our Health Officer, John Wozniak:
“John: As discussed, my understanding is that your testing of your fields was negative for lead, in fibers, dust, and wipes. This was from both the vacuum sampling done, and the laboratory analysis. I also understand that you tested field product not in use, but stored, and noted that the matrix which binds the turf had high concentrations of lead above the 400 ppm. If the core product tested and the matrix are not breaking down and dust rising to the top of the fiber bed, so that it is accessible, there is no reason to do dust suppression activities. My recommendation would be to just have field managers monitor each field and look at potential degradation issues that may result in matrix material becoming accessible. Hope this helps as we continue our examination of this issue.”
Nielson stated from what we have heard tonight, the lead is in the backing and is encapsulated under the matting. From what I understand, it is not a health and safety risk. It is not being transferred into the blades of grass, is not in the little black particles, and children will not be inhaling lead. Is that a correct statement? Guilmette answered yes, that is accurate.
Nielson asked Thomas Mazzaccaro, Water & Sewer Director, is there potential for the lead to leach out of the turf, go down through the sand, and affect the public drinking supply?
Mazzaccaro answered our hydrologist, Vincent Uhl, did submit a written report on it. His indication is this is not going to happen. If there were high concentrations of lead, it would take 2 to 5 years and in doing that, it would not come from one source, because the wells are over 1,000 feet away. There would be significant dilution on its journey to the production wells. Additionally, we do test for lead according to NJDEP regulations on a periodic basis. We are due to test in June. We test at the tap. Based on last year’s testing, we are not concerned about it at this time.
Nielson asked there is no known risk to our drinking water? Mazzaccaro answered no. We monitor our water all the time.
Committeeman Sandham asked when was the last time we tested the water? Mazzaccaro replied in 2005. We regularly test every three years. We are doing testing next month.
Sandham asked if we could test at the wells. Mazzaccaro answered yes.
Committeewoman Bader asked how often is the testing/monitoring of the fields going to take place?
Bastone stated we are going to consult with the NJ Dept. of Health and do what they suggest.
Bader asked if the heat and/or the plowing of snow will cause the breakdown process to speed up.
Guilmette stated the NJ Dept. of Health is consulting with the Consumer Product Safety Commission on these issues. They are supposed to release further documentation, suggestions, and guidelines within the next few weeks.
Committeeman Braden asked any of the grooming/plowing – none of these things come in contact with the portion of the turf that contains the lead? Guilmette answered correct, that material is bound.
Bastone stated we are going to continue to monitor.
Nielson stated we have the JIF and the warranties if we need to replace the fields.
Braden asked who will we look to for a schedule of testing? Bastone answered the NJ Dept. of Health & Senior Services.
Committeeman Daughtry stated there are no official State guidelines for lead in a turf field. All of this is a derivative of something they have arbitrarily adopted while they investigate this. At the end of the day, it is about the transfer of lead. The guidelines will not be adopted within the next few weeks. It will be July or August. There is no transfer of lead. I appreciate the Administrator for getting the news out quickly, but it creates a lot of angst and a lot of rumors. Some people thought the parking lot millings were loaded with lead. I asked that the parking lot be tested. There are no official State standards for turf fields right now.
Sandham stated the field will degradation unevenly based on use – footballs, soccer, lacrosse. What is going to be the monitoring process of the entire field? Pat, if your kid were playing on this field, how often would you check the field? Guilmette answered the Dept. of Health will probably come back with once a year and in various locations where there is the most wear.
Chairwoman Nielson opened the meeting up to questions from the public.
Daren Colaiacovo, 2 Buckingham Circle, Pine Brook, stated I don’t feel you have enough information. It sounds inconclusive. We are asking you to let us use the grass fields to finish up our season. Our season ends in June. Our board unanimously voted to stay off the turf fields. I have contacted Mr. Bastone about using field 3, and I was denied. I don’t feel that it is right to be denied a field that we pay taxes on. I ask you again if we can use the grass fields.
Nielson stated I would ask to defer the question until we have heard all of the questions.
Colaiacovo asked why do I have to reschedule games to go to another town? Why can’t we play on a field that is available?
Bastone stated my reasoning is if the fields are going to be open, we need to maintain the schedule. I felt it was unfair to have some organizations move from that field, while having others stay on that field with the schedule. In my opinion, it was all or none. I felt we had to be uniform in the application of the policy. Either everyone gets rescheduled off that field or no one does.
Carmen Cerreto, 7 Karen Road, Pine Brook, stated I am a football parent and a member of Turf the Valley. I heard people speak about the warranty on the field. The company that put down the turf went out of business and it was taken over by another company. Who would cover the warranty?
Nielson stated I am referring to a specification guarantee of 8 to 10 years before degradation or wear and tear. That is the warranty I am referring to.
Cerreto stated we contacted a company called Field Turf. They are nationally known and have done a lot of the football fields. Wouldn’t it behoove us to contact them?
Bastone stated I have no problem contacting Field Turf. The Township Engineer, Tony Barile, has possibly already contacted them. They are the ones that manufactured the Community Park field turf.
Daughtry stated the issue isn’t only with Montville, but with the whole State. They need to decide whether their product meets whatever new safety standards are coming out.
Tanner Zabransky, 24 Brook Valley Road, Towaco, stated I live right next to Camp Dawson and have been playing on it since it was built. After practices my friends and I play on it and dive in it, etc. How come I am not affected from it?
Daughtry stated you are fine and healthy, and that is great.
Tyler MacKay, 12 Ashley Place, Towaco, asked how long are we going to be put off the turf field because I want to have a successful season. Without practice, we can’t be successful.
Nielson stated we will be discussing that later tonight. We hope to come to a consensus.
Dennis Villani, 15 Pepper Road, Towaco, asked if the field has been here for 4 years, and it takes 2 to 5 years to get to the aquifer, would it be close to the aquifer by now?
Nielson stated as Mr. Mazzaccaro told us, it does journey down, but it gets diluted. He did explain they will be doing testing again. The lead is encapsulated and is not going down into the aquifer at this time.
Pat Villani, 15 Pepper Road, Towaco, it sounds like all of the testing has been on the perimeter of the field. Has any testing been done in the center of the field where there is a lot of wear and tear?
Bastone stated on each field we tested right at the 50-yard line. Guilmette showed on the sample how they tested.
Frank Lane, 27 DeFrack Road, Lake Hiawatha, asked why we didn’t test four years ago. Nielson answered stated there was no reason to test four years ago. There were no guidelines. This concern came about in the State of New Jersey recently.
Sandham stated the only reason the State started testing is because they thought there was another site adjacent to a field that would contaminate a field. That is why they initiated tests on the fields themselves.
Joe Levine, 26 Diann Drive, Montville, football and lacrosse coach, member of lacrosse board, asked are there any members of the board here that were part of the purchase process? Has anyone actually identified who is holding the warranty?
Bastone answered no, we haven’t. I am going to be consulting with the Township Attorney and looking at the bid documents.
Levine asked what constitutes a warranty defection? Is JIF a self-insurance fund? Bastone answered it is a self-insurance fund, and we are also members of a municipal excess liability fund.
Levine asked if the board thinks it’s appropriate that the testing company that we used that said everything is okay is the one that is tied to the JIF. Do you feel that’s okay, that’s appropriate?
Levine stated as a lacrosse coach and member of the board, when we had five different test done – 4 positives and 1 negative – when we give the results to the competing towns, so far we have had tremendous pushback from the rest of the towns we are dealing with. I would like to understand what answer you suggest we give the towns that have refused based on 1 test, not 5, to come to Camp Dawson to play. How can we get grass field time so we don’t lose a program in this town? What can we tell towns to give them the confidence?
Bastone stated I would provide them with the e-mail today from Mr. Brownlee of the NJ Dept. of Health.
Sandham stated our concern now is whether there is a health issue for the children, not who is going to pay for a new field and warranties.
Steve Moscone, 68 Hook Mountain Road, Montville, stated the installer has a large part of the guarantee. I was on the Township Committee when we purchased it. Are these fields 100% safe to play on? Towns will not come here to play, so we are rescheduling. There is absolutely no reason you are not rescheduling an entire sport. We are asking for field time on an underutilized field, #3. If the turf fields are not 100% clean, then we respectfully request some grass time.
Brandon Blanchet, 222 Brook Valley Road, Towaco, asked if anyone has been affected by the lead on the fields.
John Wozniak, Health Officer, stated not that they are aware of. You have to remember in order to be affected by the lead, you have to have exposure. What we are saying now is there is no lead being exposed.
Aidan Sanchez, 6 Kristin Court, Towaco, asked if the fields have been there for four years, how come no one has been affected by it?
Nielson stated it has come to the attention of some people that lead has been found in some turf fields. The State decided to test some turf fields, and we decided to test ours for the presence of lead so we would know exactly what is in our turf fields.
Tommy Bauer, 1 Daro Court, Montville, asked how exactly do you test the fields? Nielson stated there are five different tests. One test is the wipe test, where they wipe the turf with a Handy wipe or Kleenex, a vacuum test where they take a little vacuum cleaner to collect dust, and they test for lead in what is underneath – the backing. They are tested for lead in a laboratory by a scientist. That is where the lead is located – in that backing.
Nielson stated we are going to close the line after the next two gentlemen. These are not the end of the questions. We have e-mail addresses. We are here to work for and serve the public. We have been very aggressively pursuing this so we can get the information out to the public as soon as we have it so we all can understand it.
Michael Palma, 10 Manchester Way, Pine Brook, asked has any thought been given to bringing Manchester Park back up into shape? Nielson answered that has not been discussed at this time. That is always an option. In the summer, I am sure we can pursue that if necessary.
Vince Monteleone, 17 Masar Road, Montville, stated Mr. Bastone, you are stating you felt it would be unfair to take fields from other sports since they are already registered. There are only two other sports utilizing those fields. All you are doing is shifting two programs to other fields.
Monteleone asked about the washing of hands. For football this fall, they touch the fields with their hands and put their mouthpieces in. Do they have to keep washing their hands? Sandham stated no, because it is encapsulated.
Monteleone stated the field degradation is based on usage. There are multiple programs multiple time of the year. It is not based on annual degradation; it is based on usage. If you have a ten year lifespan, perhaps that should be evaluated much sooner.
George Drexl, 29 River Road, Montville, stated Broncos shares some of the concerns and comments from tonight. We look forward to our season and are following this closely. We trust that you will do everything you can for the programs following lacrosse. Many uses, many sports, many seasons.
Hearing no one further from the public, Chairwoman Nielson closed the public portion.
Nielson stated we came here tonight to gather information and bring us and the public up to date. The most important question we have before us tonight: Do these fields pose a health risk for people who play on these fields? We did receive this e-mail from the State today indicating that there is no transference going on, and we don’t need to continue watering the fields and aggressively pursue the precautions listed on the website. Is that an accurate statement?
Bastone answered yes, that is an accurate statement, based on the representation of the State.
Nielson asked can the fields be opened without restriction? Bastone replied yes. Nielson asked do we need to discuss?
Motion made by Daughtry to approve the unconditional reopening of Camp Dawson based on the NJ Dept. of Health correspondence received today and based on at least a quarterly inspection of the fields and that the issue of any additional field issues, scheduling issues, or discussions would take place between the Administrator and the Recreation Director. Second: Sandham. Roll call vote – Daughtry, yes; Sandham, yes; Bader, no; Braden, yes; Nielson, yes.
Nielson stated issue #2 is the request to avail the lacrosse folks and other organizations with grass fields that are not currently in use. As you all know, we rotate a field to keep the grass fields in top shape. There is a field lying fallow at this time. We have been following Mr. Bastone’s recommendation for the last nine days as we explore this. He is our full-time Administrator, and we have the utmost respect for him. What I would like to ask the Township Committee members now is to respond to the request from lacrosse.
Bader stated I think we need to reopen whatever we have available and use it. We will deal with the repairs when they come.
Sandham stated we have heard from the expert we have at the State that this field is safe. Having said that, I firmly believe that if any parent or team doesn’t have that same level of confidence that we should open other fields and allow them to use grass. They would have the option. That would be my position, and I honestly thought that was included in the motion.
Daughtry stated that was in the motion, but I left it to the decision of the people who should be making it, not the Township Committee based on political positioning. That would be with the Recreation Director and the Administrator.
Sandham stated we have heard that the field is safe. If some people choose not to want to believe that information, that is fine. I don’t think anyone on the Township Committee would impress their opinion on any individual parent about the safety of their children. Having said that, we should find out what other fields are available. I think Mr. Palma had a good suggestion about Manchester Park if we can do something with that, and we should make other grass fields that are available, available. Clearly, every Township Committee member and the Township Administrator are as concerned about the safety of your children as you are.
Braden stated it sounds like we have a consensus to get field 3 opened up. This is an extraordinary situation. I would make a motion that we open up that field and ask Director Witty and Mr. Bastone to do their best with the scheduling to get the games back on track. Second: Sandham. Nielson stated I don’t know that we need a motion. Do I have a consensus? Township Committee: all yes.
Nielson stated we have a consensus to direct our Administrator and our Recreation Department to make available field 3 and any other grass area for play.
Nielson stated the public relations issue. The majority feels that the fields are safe at this time. We need to employ either a PR firm or have a press release. I think that the State will be working with us and other towns that have turf fields. It is a global issue. We certainly don’t want fields sitting there not used. I think we need to work aggressively with the State. We want to continue to closely monitor this. Any information that comes in, we will make available immediately.
Daughtry stated last night at the Board of Education meeting, the Athletic Director stated when they asked the other towns about their fields, they were told they tested their fields and they are safe. I want to ask the association here to ask the other towns if their fields were tested and what the numbers were. This is not Montville’s issue, this is a State issue. We need to collect data from these other places.
Coliaicovo stated they will ask that of everyone they play if you issue a statement that our fields are safe. If you say it is safe and the State says it is safe, I think this issue goes away, but it is not going to happen tomorrow.
Bastone stated he will put the correspondence from the State on the website.
Meeting adjourned at 8:25 p.m. Motion: Sandham. Second: Braden. All in favor. Motion approved.
Gertrude H. Atkinson, Township Clerk