Guest Blog by Jack Withington

This week I was part of the change. In what is a Petaluma first, a group of concern citizens lobbied the Petaluma Board of Education to stop the use of a suspected toxic and possibly carcinogenic waste by-product, ground up recycled rubber tire particles called crumbs, from being used as an “infill” on Casa Grande High School’s sports field. “Infill” is one of several “toppings” used as a shock absorber placed on the top of artificial turf replacing the natural grass that had been used on playing fields.

Until a few month ago I was oblivious, as were many others, to the dangers that the recycled ground rubber crumbs posed. Until I reconnected with Jean Barish a family friend from our days at Penngrove School. In conversation Jean shared that she has been a political/environmental activist in the bay area. She went on to tell me about the tire crumb mixture that was being used on area sports fields.

It was then I realized that Casa Grande’s sports field was in the process of renovation. I made a few calls and found out that “infill” was scheduled to be applied to the field. I then connected with some others that were bothered by the thought of using the crumbs on Casa Grande’s field. We met and discussed our options. We involved others, we contacted the media. John Jackson of the Argus Courier wrote some thought provoking articles. The Press Democrat wrote about the crumb issue. At our second board meeting on August 18, I was overwhelmed by the supportive testimony offered by concerned individuals. It was at that meeting the Petaluma Board of Education voted to use a cork product as the infill on Casa’s field instead of tire crumbs.

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