Tearing up the turf: Lead comes up

Despite the discovery of lead on the turf two weeks ago, commencement ceremonies will take place at Lions’ Stadium this year, according to College officials.

“I am extremely pleased that we should be able to resolve this situation in an effective and responsible manner,” R. Barbara Gitenstein, College president, said in a mass e-mail.

Work crews last week began removing the nylon-fiber turf, which was found to contain more than 10 times the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s residential soil cleanup criteria for lead after a New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) survey.

According to College officials and DHSS staff, laboratory test results on dust collected from the turf should be available in three to five weeks to determine how much lead the turf released into the air.

The effects of the elevated lead content and whether or not the lead can be absorbed into the human body are still unknown, though a DHSS press release said children under the age of 6 would be most at risk.

According to Curt Heuring, vice president for Facilities Management, Construction and Safety, Health risks were of great concern for the College.

“The health and safety of the community is a top priority of the institution and identifying a potential health risk is consistent with those values,” Heuring said.

In the meantime, the sublayer under the turf was determined to be safe for commencement ceremonies.

“The sublayer was tested already and showed no elevated lead content,” Matt Golden, executive director of Public Affairs, said, adding that the physical condition of the sub-layer has yet to be determined.

According to Gitenstein, because the turf was approaching the end of its usefulness before the lead was discovered, the College already allocated funds for the turf’s replacement. As a result, College officials were able to immediately initiate the removal process.

“The process began as early as the first day when we heard that the turf was contaminated,” Gitenstein said. “We were able to move more quickly on the replacement because we could declare the replacement an ’emergency’ and because we had in fact already allocated resources for replacement of the turf in our asset renewal plan.”

According to College officials, no adverse symptoms related to the lead contamination have been reported so far.

While the turf will not be entirely removed before commencement, as ceremonies are only held on a portion of the field, the replacement will likely be completed for use in summer events.

“Women’s lacrosse and intramural sports were displaced,” Golden said, “but it appears the new turf will be available for summer camps and Special Olympics.”