More than six months since the municipal election when voters approved the City and Borough of Juneau’s issuance of $6.6 million in general obligation bond debt to finance the construction and equipment costs for park improvements at city-located parks, the projects are starting to take shape.
Of the $6.6 million in projects — including trail maintenance, a public use cabin and access improvements — the city plans to replace Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park’s eight-lane track and install artificial turf at the ballfield.
According to Katie Koester, the CBJ Director of Engineering and Public Works, the city is currently advertising for a company to take the lead on the design of the project, which she said will likely be awarded to a company in the coming weeks. Following the awarding, the project will be designed over the winter with construction likely beginning in the summer of 2024.
The so-called “forever chemicals” have made headlines recently for their links to health issues. A growing number of municipalities across the country have placed bans on installing new artificial turf in city parks, most notably Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, who ordered the disallowance in September 2022.
Multiple independent studies, along with testing by the Environmental Protection Agency, have found the infill of the turfing, most often made with recycled rubber tires called crumb rubber, to contain high levels of the chemicals.
Some of the health issues the chemicals are linked to include cancer, liver damage, thyroid disease, fertility issues and birth defects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
PFAS was addressed at the Alaska State Legislature this year, which passed a bill containing provisions by state Sen. Jesse Kiehl, a Juneau Democrat, banning PFAS chemicals for most firefighting purposes.
“These things are bad for people and they’re bad for people in incredibly small concentrations,” he said during a floor session in May.
The concerns of PFAS were fielded by the city and a risk assessment was conducted, according to Koester. The assessment found that because the primary route for PFAS to enter into the human body is ingestion and it is “present in most everyday products” the amount of PFAS in artificial turn seems to “present a tolerable amount of health risk.”
The city was given three potential options to address the PFAS concerns as outlined in the assessment:
— No action/natural grass.
— Install artificial turf with a combination of rubber infill.
— Install artificial turf with natural infill and the required additional padding.
Koester said the no action/natural grass option will likely not be pursued, and instead the city plans to procure turf from a “low PFAS provider,” meaning through the design process the city will look to utilize products with “lower PFAS” on the market and explore natural infill products as well.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at email@example.com or (651)-528-1807.