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Williamsville School Board chooses EPDM rubber for athletic fields

Athletes at Williamsville district schools will be playing on new fields infilled with synthetic EPDM rubber, ending a debate that raised health concerns over that granular substance and a similar widely used product called “crumb rubber.”

The School Board voted, 5-2, Tuesday in favor of EPDM, short for ethylene propylene diene monomer, also known as “virgin rubber.”

EPDM is considered a premium alternative to crumb rubber, which is made of recycled tires.

Questions have been raised recently on a national level about a possible link between crumb rubber used in building the fields and cancer diagnoses in young athletes.

The decision to use EPDM is expected to add between $100,000 and $300,000 per field to the district’s $22.4 million improvement project for athletic fields.

The project was approved by 62 percent of voters in May.

The district’s current athletic fields of natural grass are often in poor condition, requiring teams to move their home games elsewhere, officials said.

The board had considered several other alternatives, such as a cork/coconut blend and sand.

“I plan on voting for cork and coconut because I’m also concerned about the health risks that are potentially possible, and I do want to clarify that this would not delay the project,” board member Mark Mecca said just before the vote.

Also prior to the vote, the board heard from about 10 residents who downplayed any potential health and safety risks and urged the board not to delay the project.

Superintendent Scott G. Martzloff said construction on the artificial turf field at Williamsville North High School is expected to begin in March or early April.

“We look forward to getting started, providing those opportunities for our student-athletes, our students who are taking physical-education classes and all of our community sports groups,” he said to applause from the standing-room-only crowd.