17 thoughts on “OP-ED: Town Councilors — Make a Choice: Public Health & the Environment or More Game Days

  1. Too bad this issue wasn’t sufficiently debated publicly before the agreement was made with BB&N that, unless it has been reconsidered, allows them to put synthetic turf on the fields they are developing on Grove Street, adjacent to Filippello Park.

  2. I think what’s missing here is that the candidates were all talking about a particular issue, which is BBN putting artificial turf on the land they purchased from Mt Auburn Cemetery. The town can’t demand what BBN does with their own land, and it’s a hard issue to deal with, given there is currently an agreement to share fields with them as neighbors. Being too forceful as Council Bays noted could potentially lose use of that field over time for Watertown’s teams.

    It’s not about sitting on a fence, its about trying to be tactful to not lose access to a local field that the town does not own.

  3. Thank you Janet for a well written and researched letter.

    I cringe when I see young kids out on the Victory Field turf every summer during extreme heat. Just so unhealthy and toxic. The turf temps are always higher and having little kids on the field just seems like an invitation for illness. I can remember a few years ago a neighbor having her 5 year old in a program with the Recreation Department that took place on the hot turf at Victory Field on a hot summer day. Her child and other children complained to their parents that their feet, with sneakers on, were burning. That is not right at all and as a community we should at least have standards when it comes to the turf field and when conditions are unsafe to use it such as hot days.

    As for the cancer risks, those exist also and usually show up several years later in the form of rare cancers. The question for Watertown officials should also be about the liability of synthetic fields and what happens when someone does get diagnosed with a cancer after having played on the fields for games?

  4. Watertown teams may lose the right to play on BBN private fields if we kick up too much of a fuss, but do we really want our young people exposed to this stuff? Once a child dies or is debilitated by cancer, the costs are enormous: The healthcare costs, the loss of productivity of youth. And there’s no turning back the clock for that family. When my sons had games on artificial turf in high school, I constantly found rubber beads in my washing machine and dryer. There’s no question that they were exposed. Do we really want to jeopardize our most precious resource, our children (our future) to convenience? Frugality? Trendiness? I hope not. Thank you, Janet, for your informative letter.

  5. CherylB, I’m afraid you missed the point of this op-ed.

    Frankly, if the BB&N deal were to fall through I think Watertown kids would be getting a much better deal in terms of their health and well-being.

    Recall that Watertown has beautiful, recently-improved natural turf fields at Filippello Park, complete with new Dark Skies lighting for evening use. Watertown also has a DPW parks foreman with highly regarded professional knowledge about how to keep natural turf fields in excellent shape.

    The grass fields at Filippello are so attractive to BB&N that BB&N wants exclusive access during prime after-school hours. Their justification is that BB&N kids will then be able to get home in time to do their homework and be with their families.

    In return BB&N would allow Watertown teams access to BB&N’s proposed artificial turf on Grove Street — notably during the hottest season of the year, when, as Janet Buck notes, artificial turf temperatures can approach or exceed the temperature of nearby asphalt.

    If the deal were to fall through:

    1) Watertown students would be spared exposure to the toxic chemicals and particles in BB&N’s artificial turf and to the excessive heat radiating from that baking-hot surface on hot summer days.

    2) Watertown students would have the health benefits of expanded access to Filippello’s natural turf fields. In the hottest weather, natural turf cools the air and is cool to the touch. Natural turf naturally cleans itself (artificial turf requires chemical cleaners). Recent epidemiological research even shows that play on natural grass improves the immune systems of small children.

    3) Watertown students would be spared artificial turf injuries. Epidemiological research on artificial turf vs natural turf injuries was a factor in the University of Arizona’s decision this year to switch its athletic fields back to natural grass.

    Last but not least —

    4) Watertown students would be ensured access to early after-school field time at Filippello. Remember, BB&N said reserving these times exclusively for BB&N would allow BB&N students to get home earlier to their families and homework. Surely Watertown students deserve this opportunity no less.

    BB&N seems not to be particularly concerned about artificial turf’s local environmental and community impact, nor about where, ten or fifteen years down the road, those tons of industrial waste would be dumped when the field surface needs to be scraped up and replaced.

    But who knows. For the sake of ensuring BB&N’s own students’ long term health, maybe BB&N’s planners will see the light and invest in creating well-designed, well-maintained natural turf fields instead.

    Whatever BB&N decides, Watertown needs both more green open space and more athletic fields.
    — May Watertown have the smarts to purchase land that can be adapted to serve these needs before real estate prices go totally into the stratosphere.
    — And may Watertown have the wisdom and vision to permit ONLY natural turf fields going forward.

  6. With the illumination of how micro plastics affects our air, water and wildlife, and of course seeps into our own bodies, I don’t see how anyone can be for artificial turf. Thanks for this letter and I agree wholeheartedly.

  7. BB& N is free to do what they want on their own property. It is up to the parents of that institution to voice concern if there is any on their part. Victory Field is, and was, Peter Centola’s project. Take that up with him.

    • Yes, Sheppard, BB&N was asked at the “community meeting” they held this past June to tout their plan for the new Grove St field. At that meeting, their reply to several attendees’ who described scientists and scientist groups that condemn artificial turf for health and safety reasons was that they had “their own scienists” who have established that there’s no conclusive evidence of any danger to public health or safety.” When attendees indicated that the studies that claimed “no conclusive evidence” had been proved faulty, even shoddy or deceptive, BB&N had no reply except to say they didn’t agree. Beside “no conclusive evidence” does NOT constitute proof of the safety of plastic grass.
      Multiple efforts after that community meeting met with silence. Except that those of us who tried to warn BB&N parents of the danger received “cease and desist” letters from a BB&N attorney.
      BB&N has remained closed to dialogue, uncommunicative, and shamelessly entitled since residents of Watertown began objecting to Watertown’s agreement with them. As you see from Elodia Thomas’s letter in this column, it has so far been impossible to get the Watertown Council to schedule the new hearing requested on the subject, thought they are legally obliged to do so.f
      Susan LaDue
      5 Stearns Road

      • They sounds like the climate change deniers. There is no denying that eventual disposal of a turf field is an environmental nightmare.

        BB & N is getting off to a bad start with the community. It seems that they have little desire to be a good neighbor. The cease and desist letters point to ham handed tactics that one would expect from a heartless corporate entity.

        I thought that BB & N represented progressive, enlightened education. Evidently, they only talk the talk and fail to walk the walk.

  8. Dear Watertown,

    Beware of sitting Town Councilors who give lip service to issue of transparency! What you heard at the Councilor at Large forum regarding artificial turf is bogus.

    The BB&N deal made me uncomfortable from the beginning. When I heard about this potential deal in 2019, the first question I asked was – Will this be grass or plastic turf? No one seemed to know but they were all jumping for joy to support the BB&N deal. Some of the replies – I don’t know; We’ll cross that bridge if we get to it; We just don’t want another biotech building, and more. When did we get to that bridge? How do you support a deal when you don’t know the details?

    I have come to believe the discussions of this deal were scheduled for Town Council Executive Sessions to hide the details from the community. Public meetings would have brought out the artificial turf opponents just as they came out during the Victory Field Phase 2 meetings.

    Given my misgivings, I contacted the Attorney General’s office and wrote:

    “I have a question regarding executive session and the definition of “exchange” as listed in reason #6: “To consider the purchase, exchange, lease, or value of real property if the chair declares that an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the negotiating position of the public body;…

    It seems to me that exchange should involve more than a schedule of when recreation facilities would be used by each party. I have put in a request for the executive session minutes on November 12, 2019, and November 10, 2020.”

    This was the reply I received; On Wed, Jul 28, 2021 at 4:02 PM OpenMeeting (AGO) wrote:

    “Good Afternoon Elodia,
    As we discussed yesterday, Purpose 6 allows a public body to convene in executive session to “consider the purchase, exchange, lease or value of real property if the chair declares that an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the negotiating position of the public body.” G.L. c. 30A, § 21(a)(6). I am not aware of any specific determinations that we have issued that focus on the meaning of “exchange” but we think it might encompass the transfer of land from one entity to another. However, we have found that Purpose 6 is intended to preserve confidentiality in negotiating the value of the property to be purchased, exchanged or leased to avoid putting the public body at a disadvantage in its negotiations for the property. We construe Purpose 6 narrowly to permit a public body to meet in executive session to protect its negotiating position when seeking to purchase, exchange, or lease real estate, or to discuss the value of real estate, where it has a negotiating position relative to that property. Moreover, a public body must show that holding the discussions in open session would have been detrimental to any negotiating position it might have had with respect to the exchange of property. A public body that is not a party to a real estate transaction or does not itself have a negotiating position relative to the purchase, exchange, lease, or value of the property, generally could not meet in executive session under Purpose 6. Potential uses for land and whether to proceed with a project, as well as general discussions regarding real property or the use of real property, such as discussion relating to licensing or permitting, where there is no negotiating position to protect, are not proper discussions under Purpose 6. To determine whether a public body properly convened in executive session, we would need to conduct an investigation which can only occur after an Open Meeting Law complaint is filed against the public body. I hope this provides some additional guidance.

    Kerry Kilcoyne (she/her/hers)
    Assistant Attorney General
    Division of Open Government
    Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General
    One Ashburton Place, 20th Floor
    Boston, MA 02108
    Ph: (617) 963-2540

    So I ask you – did the Town Councilors (TC) abuse Purpose 6? I believe they did.

    Next, I requested the Executive Session minutes hoping to ascertain who knew what when. Another dead-end challenge. The white-washed Executive Session minutes failed to indicate “What did TC’s know when?” In neither the Nov 2019 nor the Nov 2020 Executive Session minutes was there any mention of artificial turf.

    As many of you know, after the November 24, 2020 TC meeting the first petition was started. After BB&N completely ignored resident concerns in a community meeting and I received a “cease and desist” email, a second petition was started. Here are petition links:
    1.) BB&N Please Reject Artificial Turf at Grove Street, Watertown.
    Change.org Petition Link: http://chng.it/SGJYQWdD 761 signatures as of June 2, 2021
    2.) Citizen Petition: Request for a Town Council Public Hearing. 229 signatures submitted May 18,

    The Citizen Petition was submitted to Town Council on May 18, 2021 and was verified (229 signatures) on June 25, 2021. The purpose – to discuss the MOU and its implications for our community. According to our Charter – https://ecode360.com/36825949,
    Section 7-8 Citizens Petitions to Council or School Committee “ The town council or the school committee shall hold a public hearing and act with respect to every citizen petition which is addressed to it, which petition shall not be required to take any particular form, and is signed by one-hundred-fifty voters, or more, and which seeks the passage of a measure concerning matters other than action under section 8-11(c). The hearing shall be held by the town council or the school committee, or, in either case, by a committee or sub committee thereof, and the action by the town council or the school committee shall be taken not later than three months after the petition is filed with the clerk of the council or the secretary of the school committee, as may be appropriate. Hearings on two or more petitions filed under this section may be held at the same time and place. The clerk of the council or the secretary of the school committee shall mail notice of the hearing to the ten persons whose names appear first on the petition at least forty-eight hours before the hearing. Notice, by publication, of all such hearings shall be at public expense.“

    Three months have passed. Question folks, do you think the Town Council is waiting until after the election results are in on November 2 so this issue does not see the light day? One TC mentioned having a meeting regarding the petition in the “next month or two.” Really? How about following the Charter Rules that were discussed extensively this past year.

    There has been much double talk on the part of many of the Councilors. We elect TC’s to represent us, to hear us out, discuss pros and cons, and then hopefully make wise decisions in light of day for the common good for all in our community. Many of us have been been educating the public and the TC since 2013 about the health and environmental impacts of toxic plastic turf.

    To those running for office for the first time, please get informed. Just enter “artificial turf” in the Watertown News search bar and see all the info that comes up. Democracy does not thrive in ignorance or darkness.

    As always I am willing to discuss the issues and share info with anyone.

    As Always,

    We Are All Watertown

  9. What about our playground surfaces? As I understand,, these are also made of a similar material. Why is this not being addressed?

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