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Rubbery pellets shedding from Oak Bay High field threatens nearby creek

Artificial turf was replaced in 2020 after it was found shedding in late 2019

Residents who care for Bowker Creek feel an artificial field isn’t the right option for a school so close to the waterway as Oak Bay High started shedding particles for a second time.

It’s the second time since Oak Bay High was rebuilt that the field on Cadboro Bay Road has been replaced.

It was closed and redone after grassy fibres were found coming loose and winding up in the waterway in late 2019. It was replaced in August 2020 with turf billed as an upgrade with better underlay – a blend of silica sand as a ballast to weigh the mats down, blended with spongy plastic pellets that act as cushions for users.

“This time it’s little rubbery pellets. To us this was a whole new experience,” said Gerald Harris of the Friends of Bowker Creek Society which engages in several ongoing rejuvenation projects for the adjacent waterway.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay High soccer turf closed indefinitely as plastic sheds into Bowker Creek

In light of the second failure, he said, it’s likely just not a good location for artificial turf.

“We see it as irresponsible in terms of taking care of Bowker Creek and taking care of the Salish Sea,” Harris said, adding “it’s not a battle we’re going to enter into.”

Instead, armed with brooms and dustpans a team of volunteers headed out to clear up some of the mess ahead of potential rain – to scoop up what they estimated was 50 to 60 pounds of the rubbery bits that bond together to become clumps. The pieces swept up came primarily from adjacent to the field, but those chunks have likely been walking out of the field on cleats, shoes and bike tires, Harris said. They found some on the Bowker walkway and nearby recreation centre parking lot.

Heavily used by both the school and Bays United Soccer Club, the field is owned and maintained by the Greater Victoria School District (SD61).

“I did hear back from the school district that they put covers under the storm drains and are doing weekly sweeping to clean up and put a vinyl sheet along the inside of the fence,” Harris said. “What they’ve done is not trivial at all. At the same time, what we found is we believe a lot of it has gone into Bowker Creek and will go into Bowker Creek.”

The Greater Victoria School District did not respond to multiple interview requests over several days from the Oak Bay News.

READ ALSO: Turf replacement installed at Oak Bay High

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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