A grassroots community group called Zero Waste Ithaca held a rally to voice opposition to the construction of an artificial turf on Ithaca College’s campus on June 1. 

Organizers called for the institution to reconsider the decision to install a turf field in Buttermilk Stadium, IC’s football stadium, due to detrimental effects the materials in turfs have on the environment and athletes. 

Artificial turf fields are made from 100-120 tons of “crumb rubber,” recycled rubber scraps from truck tires, that contain perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances called PFAs, or “forever chemicals.”

These chemicals do not break down in the natural environment or in human bodies, and are widely known to infiltrate local water systems. They have adverse effects on human health and put athletes at risk of cancer and diabetes, and interfere with natural hormones, according to an editorial written by The Ithacan staff members. The city of Boston recently banned all new artificial turf installations and is the largest city to do so.  

This debate began in November of last year when Ithaca College announced plans to renovate its football field using a $3 million donation from a past graduate. Proposed renovations included replacing the natural-grass field with artificial turf, among other projects such as adding new lighting systems. The school stated the new surface will allow expanded use of the field for more time throughout the year.

Students and faculty were quick to organize and distribute a petition outlining the numerous adverse health effects connected to artificial turfs. It called for the renovation to Butterfield “Bertino” Stadium be halted immediately due to “the adverse environmental impacts the artificial turf will have in our local ecosystem.” 885 signatures have been collected.

Ithaca College aims to have the new artificial turf ready to use in time for the Fall 2023 semester. Ithaca College representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Before construction was to begin, the project needed to be approved by a few different agencies, according to previous reporting in The Ithaca Voice

It had to obtain a permit from the Town of Ithaca Planning Board, as well as site plan approval to begin construction. Town engineers reviewed and accepted the stormwater pollution prevention plans (SWPPP) and NYS Parks determined the project will have “no major impacts on historic properties and state recreational facilities.” 

The Town of Ithaca Board of Planning and Zoning approved construction on the artificial turf May 2023. Members of the Board acknowledged the existence of the petition against installation of the turf. Multiple speakers were present at the meeting to raise concerns that production of artificial turf would produce greenhouse gasses that counter local and state environmental goals, and produce microplastics as it degrades.  

Judy Lucas is a General Assignment Reporter for The Ithaca Voice. Have a story idea? Comment or question? You can reach me at jlucas@ithacavoice.org or on Twitter @judy__lucas.