Strands of green plastic blades in a drain at Oak Bay Recreation Centre next to the turf at Oak Bay High. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

VIDEO: B.C. high school’s turf closed indefinitely as plastic blades pollute waterway

Greater Victoria resident stumbles on plastic contamination from Oak Bay High

A Vancouver Island school district closed a high school’s artificial turf field after discovering it was shedding plastic into a nearby creek.

As first reported by Black Press Media, Greater Victoria School District (SD61) chose to close the turf at Oak Bay High School, near Victoria, after it learned that thousands of artificial plastic green blades of grass were finding their way directly into nearby Bowker Creek, and likely the ocean.

READ MORE: School district pursues legal compensation for Oak Bay High grass field

The severity of the artificial grass problem was brought to light in part due to Oak Bay resident Angus Matthews. Last week Matthews was walking his dog by the exposed section of Bowker Creek between the high school’s new artificial soccer turf and Oak Bay Recreation Centre. He noticed some funny white strips of plastic in the grass.

Artificial grass clippings collected into a pile at Oak Bay High. Parents of students noticed the turf material actually sheds and the small pieces are finding their way into a nearby Creek.
(Angus Matthews Photo)/td>

Upon further inspection, he realized the white strips are blades of artificial grass from the painted white lines that define the pitch.

“It’s shedding a shocking amount of plastic into the environment,” Matthews said. “I realized the grass next to Bowker Creek is loaded, covered, in the green plastic threads. The drains are covered with them too. It’s going straight into Bowker and with this fall flow of water, straight to the ocean.”

READ MORE: Mysterious plastic pellets washing up on Vancouver Island traced back to Fraser River source

On Friday, Matthews and a group of four people brought a Shop Vac and rakes. After a few minutes they realized that remediation was going to take a major effort. On Sunday, members of the same group combed Willows Beach, where Bowker Creek flows into the Salish Sea, and found evidence of plastic green strands with a similar likeness.

“From my point of view, it’s great to see people using the field and I’m not sure it should be closed completely, we just want to see the plastic contained and managed,” Matthews said. “We can’t prove [the plastic at Willows] is from the Oak Bay High plastic turf field but it’s a pretty good candidate.”

Matthews did some math and estimated the artificial field is made up of about 90 tonnes of plastic, the equivalent of nine million single-use 0.5 litre water bottles.

SD61 spokesperson Lisa McPhail told Black Press Media that SD61 will replace the turf in its entirety, but didn’t know when. She said the District has installed mats into the storm drains and tarp barriers at the base of the fence to catch the plastic. For now the turf will be covered with a tarp to prevent users from tracking it off field and stop the wind from blowing it into the creek.

c.vanreeuwyk@blackpress.ca
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