It apparently will cost Riverside-Brookfield High School a little more than $200,000 to put in a new stone base for its football field, because the original gravel base appears to have been installed incorrectly nine years ago.
At last week’s District 208 school board meeting, architect Carrie Matlock said the wrong proportion of large and small stones were installed when the stone base was laid for the new artificial turf field in 2006.
Smaller stones are supposed to be laid closer to the surface of the field with bigger stones below to aid drainage. But when the base was installed in 2006, larger stones seem to have been incorrectly placed on the top of the base, closer to the surface.
“What you have out in the field was actually reversed,” Matlock told the school board at its May 26 committee of the whole meeting. “The previous construction was done opposite to what the specifications required.”
The school did not have a copy of the specifications for the field that was installed in 2006. Instead, Matlock said her firm obtained them by filing a public records request with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.
Matlock’s firm, DLA Architects, had no role in the installation of the old gavel base and has only worked for RBHS since 2013.
The incorrect placement and perhaps proportion of large and small stones seems to have contributed to the problems with poor drainage that plagued the turf since it was installed in 2006. The field is being replaced this summer.
“It does drain slower,” Matlock said of the field that was installed in 2006. “Portions of the field drain pretty decently, but the middle of the field does not.”
The architects were hoping not to have to replace the stone base but now they will have to. While perhaps half the gravel in the existing stone base can be reused, the rest will have to be hauled away at a cost of $29 a yard. The additional cost is estimated to be $214,094.
The additional work could also delay the installation of the new field. Small plastic drainage pipes will be damaged as the old gravel is dug out, and they’ll have to be replaced.
“Basically we’re going to spend a month remediating your field to get back to where we are today,” said Joe Papanicholas, who is acting as the construction manager of the project.
The estimated additional cost will be taken out of the $665,000 contingency fund built into the project.
School board members are not happy about the additional cost and are reserving the right to possibly seek compensation from or take legal action against the firm that installed the stone base, JEM Morris, or Wight & Co., which handled the design and engineering for the 2006 work. But that could delay things even more, because a forensic engineer might have to be called in.
“Then you have to leave everything in place and have it tested thoroughly,” Matlock said.
But the board will likely approach JEM Morris and Wight and see what they say.
“What we’re going to do is approach the people who put it in and see what kind of leverage we have to have them make it right,” said school board member Ed Jepson, an attorney.
School board President Mike Welch was more diplomatic.
“I think we need to look at it,” Welch said. “We need to try and determine what took place and the board will look at our options and proceed appropriately.”
The board appears comfortable with going ahead with the putting in a new artificial turf field with a crumb-rubber base. Crumb rubber, which is basically shredded tires, is put between the blades of artificial grass.
Some have raised concerns that prolonged and extensive exposure to crumb rubber, such as soccer goalies and football players have, could cause cancer, especially Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Crumb rubber has long been used in artificial fields and is used in most artificial turf fields across the country.
“I think we are in a safe place with the crumb rubber,” District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis told the school board while acknowledging that there are some conflicting studies.
Dr. John Keen, who is a radiologist and a member of the school board, said that the latest research shows no connection between crumb-rubber fields and adverse health effects.
Keen referred to a study that was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology in 2014 that found no adverse health effects resulting from exposure to crumb rubber fields.
“The most recent review article shows that’s there’s no health hazard whatsoever from crumb rubber in athletic fields,” Keen said.
Meanwhile, progress is being made elsewhere on the project. Last week the foundation for the new locker room building was poured. Masonry and site utility work will begin this week.