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Bowen council turfs idea of crumb rubber filling at BICS field

The filling of the replacement field will either be organic or TPE
Youth playing soccer on turf field
Bowen F.C. players at the turf field last summer. BIM’s Shauna Jennings noted that the field has been used far more than anyone predicted it would be when the field was built a decade ago.

Whatever next fills the turf field at Bowen Island Community School, it won’t be crumb rubber. 

The once-contentious field currently has an organic coconut-husk filling, the filling compromise reached in the community a decade ago amid concerns surrounding turf toxicity. After a decade of heavy use, the field needs replacing but coconut husk is no longer recommended in the region as it breaks down easily, creating an undesirably compact surface, and has required a bi-annual refilling to a cost of $10,000 to $13,000, according to BIM’s manager of recreation and community services Shauna Jennings. 

Of the four options presented to council (crumb rubber, thermoplastic elastomer, ethylene propylene diene monomer and sticking with coconut husk) crumb rubber is the cheapest and perhaps the most environmentally friendly as it’s made of recycled materials, said Jennings. However, several letters to council, including one from Bowen Island Football Club, urged against the use of crumb rubber due to health concerns. 

Jennings noted that there studies surrounding the health effects of crumb rubber are inconclusive and not peer reviewed. It remains the industry standard and is used in North Vancouver’s facilities. 

Wynen, Kaile and Ander voiced support for crumb rubber while Fast, Morse and Nicholson leaned toward organic or thermoplastic elastomer (a food-grade plastic). 

Wynen, who works for the North Vancouver Recreation Commission, noted just how standard crumb rubber is and the cost savings and urged for that option. 

Fast noted that with the onset of COVID-19 she’s ever more attuned to health concerns and Nicholson and Morse noted that they hadn’t received a single letter in favour of crumb rubber. 

Council voted four to three to proceed with tender with the use of organic or TPE infill in the turf field replacement project. 

With the fillings requested, the project is estimated at about $290,000.