By Evan Mohl
The Cove Herald
While the Killeen Independent School District absolved fears of toxic turf last Friday, Copperas Cove ISD stood pat on its decision not to test Bulldawg Stadium.
CCISD uses the same product as Leo Buckley Stadium and the two other Texas high school stadiums – Birdville ISD Athletic Complex and Odessa's Ratliff Stadium – that contained levels of lead far exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency's standard for soil. Bulldawg Stadium purchased its turf in 2001, two years before Killeen and the two other Texas school districts.
Bulldawg Stadium open for use on Monday.
"We're glad KISD got a clean bill of health, but we're still not going to test," CCISD superintendent Dr. Rose Cameron said Friday. "Based on the information we have, lead is not a threat and the field is safe for use."
On Jan. 12, the Copperas Cove school board received a recommendation from an independently contracted consultant – the Texas Association of School Boards – to not examine and analyze the turf.
The advice, given by TASB representative Jonie Arrott, was based on the lack of guidance and oversight from government agencies. Currently, there are no state or federal laws requiring tests for lead in artificial turf.
"There's no regulation for this, so we don't know what we'd do even if the field tested positive," Arrott said. "Until we get some, we're advising our schools to not test."
KISD tested Leo Buckley based on a recommendation from Burcham Environmental Services. They believed in a proactive approach to quell concerns immediately.
"We thought we could address the problem right now," said Kent Burcham, who served as the lead consultant to KISD. "That's why we recommended the testing."
Testing can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.
So far, the high levels of lead chromate were almost solely found in the innermost fibers, or root zone. Athletes don't come into contact with that part of the turf, and the only way to get lead poisoning is through ingestion or inhalation.
Still, concerns remain with the lead getting into water or air. Both those fears were quelled by the KISD tests. At the Birdville Athletic Complex, however, testing revealed twice the EPA limit for lead in drinking water in the field's runoff.
"The major issue is the lead chromate moving to other parts of the field or off the field," said Peter Tadin, a lead-based paint expert at the Texas Department of State Health Services. "But lead doesn't move very easily. It's quite heavy."
Tadin added that lead does not typically affect people over the age of 7 and that a normal hand-washing would most likely prevent the contact adolescent athletes would experience.
Almost all cases of overexposure to lead require long lengths of contact along with ingestion and inhalation.
Cameron said the stadium will remain under close scrutiny. There are signs to watch for like discoloration.
"It'll be under a close watch," she said.
The Bulldawg Stadium turf is also near the end of its life, which could result in a new field anyway. Currently, there's no timeline for a replacement turf, but Cameron did say the school district in in the market.
Cameron heads to a conference in Austin next week, where there will be several artificial turf vendors. She plans to do some research.
"We feel like we're going in the right direction," Cameron said. "We're doing all the research necessary to find out all the costs and benefits. Then, we'll make the best decision economically and for the health and needs of our students."
The turf issue will be discussed at the next school board meeting in February.
Contact Evan Mohl at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7564.