Oak Bay High soccer pitch closed due to shedding plastic grass shards

Oak Bay High soccer pitch closed due to shedding plastic grass shards
WatchIt may be an environmental disaster in slow motion. The artificial turf at the Oak Bay High School soccer pitch is its shedding plastic grass. On Monday, the school district closed the field to all use until further notice. But the estimated 90 tons of plastic on this field is making its way directly into a nearby creek and to the ocean.


The green pieces looked inconspicuous, blending in the with the landscape, until the sharp eye of Oak Bay resident Angus Matthews noticed something wrong.

“About two-and-a-half weeks ago, I looked down at my feet and I started seeing all these shards what I thought were grass and I picked one up. And I realized no. They’re not grass they’re plastic. And then when I started looking into it a little more. I was finding these shards, 30, 40, even 50 meters from the field,” Matthews said.

The playing fields at Oak Bay High look like grass. But a closer look reveals it’s plastic and it’s shedding. Mounds of plastic grass are everywhere.

After Matthews contacted the Greater Victoria School District several weeks ago, it closed the field Monday.  Staff covered up the field to prevent more plastic from escaping. B ut it’s not hard to find the shards, just a stone’s throw from Bowker Creek.

It turns out plastic shards are migrating.  During the rain this weekend, it appears that a torrent of water flowed down the bank, carrying plastic chards into Bowker Creek.

“So 90 tons of plastic on this field. And what we’re seeing here is a 90-ton oil spill in slow motion. It’s shredding it’s gradually disintegrating. It’s finding its way to the ocean,” Matthews said.

In 2015, a new Oak Bay High School opened with three fields. But the school’s rugby team never played on a match on this field, due to the company responsible improperly installing it. Now with this field gone, it leaves just one field available to the school.  And the impact of this latest closure was felt immediately, according to Bays United Football Club president Howard McElderry.

“Well, you know, our immediate reaction was what are we going to do?” McElderry asked.

The field at Oak Bay High School is critical for Bays United Football Club.  It has the pitch booked every night during the week for five hours, with games and more practices on the weekend. Now McElderry said Bays is scrambling to find an alternate field.

“Several clubs have come forward and offered to pitch in. But it’s a substantial amount of use we have to redirect to other locations. And we are working very hard on that right now,” McElderry said.

As far as the school district is concerned, the field will be replaced with the same material according to Secretary-Treasurer Kim Morris.

“We believe the field failed before its natural, or its useful life. We believe it to be a failure of the product, not something we’d necessary never not use again.  Perhaps this specific installation failed for some reason.  So we’ll replace with the same material, as far as I know,” Morris said.

The Ministry of Environment issued a statement Tuesday, saying it is aware of the issue and monitoring the situation, but adds it’s a local government and school district issue.

“We encourage all parties to take action to place a priority on environmental protection and staff are available to provide support to the school district.   The province takes the issue of plastics making their way into waterways very seriously,” the statement said.
“As part of the ministry’s recent engagement about marine plastics, Parliamentary Secretary Sheila Malcolmson is looking at ways we can address plastics that make their way into our waterways and at how we can work with partners to protect the environment and human health.”


Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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