OCEAN CITY — Following an NBC News report last week that showed a cancer link in soccer goalies who played on artificial fields with crumb rubber infill, and a subsequent request by a New Jersey congressman for an investigation into the connection, Mayor Jay Gillian said Tuesday the city’s football field would no longer be converted from grass to turf.
“In light of recent news media accounts regarding possible health risks associated with certain types of artificial turf on athletic fields, I have directed my staff to discontinue the planned project to install this material at Carey Stadium,” Gillian wrote in a statement.
Council had approved the installation of turf at its Sept. 11 meeting and had approved putting $1.75 million in funding in place for the project at its Sept. 25 meeting. The turf ordinance was scheduled to undergo a public hearing and final vote at Council’s Oct. 23 meeting.
“While I am aware that there are no studies demonstrating a health risk associated with such turf, I have come to believe that further study is necessary,” Gillian wrote. “I am not ruling out installation of artificial turf in the future, pending the outcome of such studies. In the meantime the City will undertake the necessary repairs to the track and take any actions necessary to maintain the natural turf at Carey Field in a safe condition.”
With a national spotlight on the issue, Ocean City needed to rethink its position, said Gillian’s aide, Jim Mallon.
“He wants to take it very slow,” Mallon said of Gillian. “He feels it’s prudent to take a step back and let Congress do its study. It’s better to stop and get more information. There’s never any harm in getting more information.”
Councilman Michael Allegretto said the mayor had met with several members of council to discuss his concerns and that the group had reached a consensus.
“Everybody agrees,” Allegretto said. “There’s no need to rush.”
“We are not going to be that town” that ignores the news and blindly proceeds with the project, Council President Tony Wilson said.
“It just became very clear, after doing a review of media reports last week, that the mayor was uncomfortable with moving forward with turf at this time,” he said. “What kind of message does it send if we don’t do our due diligence?”
The proposal to install turf at the field had caused concern among some residents. Some parents objected to it because they feared there were chemical contaminants in the tire content of the crumb rubber that would pose a health hazard to their children. Others, such as Fairness in Taxes President Michael Hinchman, rejected the argument that turf was more cost-effective than grass and presented an analysis supporting his position.
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