Three years after an artificial turf field at Oak Bay High School was replaced because of shedding, clumps of the plastic field are being tracked into nearby parking lots on the bottoms of shoes and some are ending up in nearby Bowker Creek.
Large green clumps of the compacted plastic turf were visible Monday on the edge of the field, on the bank of Bowker Creek next to the field and in the parking lot of the Oak Bay Recreation Centre.
Gerald Harris, a director of the Friends of Bowker Creek Society, said several members of the group visited the field recently to clean up and swept up about 60 pounds of the material.
Harris said the turf is made of billions of tiny plastic pellets that are clumping together in warm weather.
“And they clump on the bottom of the soccer cleats, and they just walk right out with the soccer players very largely into the parking lots. And who knows where beyond that,” he said.
Harris said he has found the material in Bowker Creek, along the bank and in a shopping complex at Fort Street and Foul Bay Road, about 400 metres away, where he found a flattened green mass of pellets.
In parking lots, the clumps are likely run over and ground into dust that eventually makes its way to Bowker Creek via storm drains, he said.
Harris said the turf is made of old car tires, which contain toxins, and he’s worried about the effect on the creek’s water quality and on the Salish Sea, where they will eventually end up.
The Friends of Bowker Creek Society has been reintroducing chum salmon to the creek and hopes to eventually introduce coho.
Harris said it’s time to remove the turf and return the field to natural grass to prevent contamination of the creek.
The Greater Victoria School District said in a statement it’s aware that bits of the field are being tracked off by users and spreading on footwear.
To mitigate the spread, the district has installed locks on two gates closest to Bowker Creek to prevent people from tracking bits of the field to the creek.
The district plans to install mesh under storm-water grates near the bleachers to catch the stray clumps and has added an additional cleaning of the turf on Mondays, due to high usage over the weekends.
The field is already cleaned every Friday.
The district said it expects the clumping to decrease substantially as the weather cools, and is committed to walking the site and surrounding paths every day to monitor the situation.
The statement said the district has been in touch with the main user group on the turf, which has moved youth groups to other fields to reduce weekend use at Oak Bay High.
The current turf was installed in 2020, after the field was found to be shedding artificial grass strands. The field was closed for several months before it could be replaced.
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