Turf Field Approved by Bethel Planning & Zoning Commission Before ‘Crumb Rubber’ Surface is Investigated and Proven Safe; P&Z and FS Knickerbocker Say It’s Not Their Responsibility

Report by Paula Antolini, March 25 2022, 4:34PM EDT

Can you imagine, it seems that the Town of Bethel and the Bethel Planning & Zoning Commission are NOT going to investigate the controversial and possibly toxic “crumb rubber” materials to be used in the proposed “Multipurpose Turf Field” (or have other professionals research it and report back), according to Bethel First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker.

The project was just APPROVED by the Bethel Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) “with stipulations” at the March 22nd public hearing, without investigating, or even discussing, the “crumb rubber” at all. Are they going to leave that MOST important safety detail to the company designing and installing the project, and risk student health, and the health of anyone else that is exposed to the “crumb rubber”?

No one wants to take away your sports fields. The fields just need to be proven safe, to cause no harm, but we cannot get the Town Officials, Town Attorney or the Planning & Zoning Commission to tell us whose responsibility it is to investigate materials being used on school grounds. Knickerbocker would only say it was NOT the responsibility of the P&Z.

Parents, are YOU willing to risk your child’s health just because you anxiously want a fancy new field? Parents of students not in sports programs, do you want your children exposed to these playing fields if they are not proven safe?

Who in the Bethel Town Government is going to ensure to parents that the “crumb rubber” is safe for use?


Today the official notice was posted by the Town Clerk that at the March 22nd Planning & Zoning Commission Public Hearing, the “Multipurpose Turf Field” proposed for Bethel Public Schools, located at 300 Whittelsey Drive in Bethel, CT, was “approved with stipulations.” See copy of notice below.

There is no further information available at this time, as to what those “stipulations” are, since the CJH Municipal Center is closed for business until Monday (and “stipulations” info. was not attached to this notice or filed on the town website for viewing). You can see that this notice has a time stamp of 11:26am March 25th, today. The town hall closes at 12 noon on Friday, so we will have to wait until Monday to gather more information since the notice was incomplete. Our inquiry was earlier this week.


Note: The Planning & Zoning Commission / Town Planner Beth Cavagna, the Town Attorney Martin Lawlor, the Multipurpose Turf Field applicant’s representative, Michael Kozlowski of Claris Design Build, the company involved in this project, all have not responded to our inquiries about the project as of this date. Some we have contacted several times.

However, at 2:40pm today, First Selectman Knickerbocker sent us a two-sentence reply to our extensive inquiry about “crumb rubber” safety, asking whose responsibility it was to investigate that, and legally what is the P&Z’s responsibility, and Knickerbocker said:

The information you were given [at the March 22nd P&Z public hearing] is correct.”

“Planning & Zoning has authority over the uses of property only. It has no authority to investigate the products or materials used in a project.

–First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker


P&Z Multipurpose Turf Field Approval Announcement shown below:



Let us fill you in on what transpired at the last P&Z public hearing on March 22nd, regarding the “Multipurpose Turf Field” that has been donated by an individual who prefers to remain anonymous.

At the P&Z public hearing, the anonymous applicant’s representative, Michael Kozlowski, of Claris Design Build, the company proposing this project, made a visual presentation and never mentioned the controversial and possibly toxic “crumb rubber” surface at all, that will be installed on the Bethel school fields. It was not discussed by the Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) either, until The Bethel Advocate specifically asked the Planning & Zoning Commission questions about it.

In fact, at the public hearing Kozlowski “explained that the project was in order to rejuvenate and expand the existing lower athletic fields between the High School and the Middle School with artificial turf,” read the meeting minutes. Notice NO mention of crumb rubber possibly being toxic or suspect of cancer-producing as some reports indicate.

The project also includes new bleachers, a Press Box and field lighting. He noted for the record
that the project was funded by a private donor. He reviewed the site development plans,
drainage plans, E&S controls and lighting & photometric plans. He also noted that the Staff
Report and Memo from Wright Pierce have been addressed
,” read the meeting minutes, but no mention of crumb rubber.

“Crumb rubber” was a hot topic in the last few years when the Bethel Public Schools was considering a similar project but at the town’s expense, or funds raised. When we spoke to Dr. Carver at that time she was adamant that the “encapsulated crumb rubber” was safest.

When the Bethel Advocate mentioned the conversation with Carver to the P&Z, about “encapsulated crumb rubber” they had never heard of that substance. Chairwoman Grant asked Kozlowski, the applicant’s representative, which material he thought was better, “crumb rubber” or “encapsulated crumb rubber” and of course he said “crumb rubber” as in the project’s proposal. Was that all the P&Z needed to hear?

What is the legal responsibility of the P&Z or Town of Bethel to ensure project materials are safe?

The Bethel Advocate asked the P&Z if they were investigating the “crumb rubber” for safety. Chairwoman Grant said they were NOT investigating. “We don’t do that” she said, “It’s not our responsibility.

Then whose responsibility is it?

When The Bethel Advocate pressed further, as to whom we may contact for the responsibility of the safety investigation information, Grant named many sources, such as the Bethel Health Department, then the Bethel Board of Education, whose project she said it was, then mentioned that the Bethel Board of Selectmen had “discussed it,” but she could not give us a definitive answer.

So the Bethel Advocate asked, “Will all three be sending you a safety report, that you then can refer to, to make your final decision to approve the turf field project for safety, or not?” Again Grant said no, that they “don’t do that” and it’s “not their responsibility.”

Then, again, whose responsibility is it?


So for now, what kind of “stipulation” did the P&Z indicate for the applicant, because they approved the project in the meantime, without knowing if the materials are safe?

Interestingly the P&Z meeting minutes of 3/22/22 do NOT mention any “stipulations” in the final “reasons” given for P&Z approval vote, which read as follows (done in an added WORK SESSION):

Motion by R. Legnard, seconded by P. Kessler to add to Worksession:
Claris Construction/ 300 Whittlesey Drive/ Multipurpose Turf Field/ Middle School
The Commission engaged in a discussion of the merits of the project.
Motion by P. Kessler, seconded by R. Legnard to APPROVE a Site Plan and Special Permit to construct a multi-purpose turf field and associated amenities including light fixtures for evening activities on property located at 300 Whittlesey Drive, Assessor’ s Map 39, Block 63, Lot 80 owned by the Town of Bethel subject to conditions 1 through S.

“Reasons: The Commission has carefully reviewed the application, listened to testimony, and has determined the proposed use of the property for enhanced recreational purposes will provide an opportunity for the Educational Park to provide many recreational opportunities for the children of the Town. If constructed as approved, the project will not be a detriment to the health, safety, and welfare of the neighboring properties, the district or the Town of Bethel.

Motion approved 8 in favor, 2 opposed. In favor: Stevens, Parsons, Grant, Legnard, Wallace, Cuny, Curtis, Tibbitts. Opposed: Shanley, Kessler.

Notice how the P&Z says, “the project will not be a detriment to the health, safety, and welfare of the neighboring properties, the district or the Town of Bethel.

How can they say that if they did NOT investigate the controversial crumb rubber??



Regarding studies on crumb rubber, you can find many online.

Here is one study done by the EPA/ORD, CDC/ATSDR:

Please know that the United States Environmental Protection Agency / Office of Research and Development (EPA/ORD), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry ( CDC/ATSDR), and many other organizations have done extensive studies on crumb rubber. Here is one study from July 25, 2019: “Synthetic Turf Field Recycled Tire Crumb Rubber Research Under the Federal Research Action Plan – Final Report Part 1 – Tire Crumb Rubber Characterization Volume 1.”

EPA and CDC/ATSDR are reporting research findings in two parts. Part 1 shares the research objectives, methods, results, and findings for the tire crumb rubber characterization research. The Synthetic Turf Field Recycled Tire Crumb Rubber Research Under the Federal Research Action Plan, Final Report Part 1, is available to view now.

The Synthetic Turf Field Recycled Tire Crumb Rubber Research Under the Federal Research Action Plan, Final Report Part 2 will be released at a later date. It will include results aimed at characterizing potential human exposures to the chemicals found in the tire crumb rubber material used in synthetic turf fields. The results of the new biomonitoring study conducted by CDC/ATSDR will be released along with this report.


Here is a preview:

Characterizing Tire Crumb Rubber for Exposure Assessment | Science Inventory | US EPA


The presentation will describe the purpose, methods, and results for tire crumb rubber characterization under the Federal Research Action Plan, and will frame the characterization in a human exposure context.


“Tire crumb rubber derived from recycled tires is widely used as infill material in synthetic turf fields in the United States. An estimated 95% of the over 12,000 installed fields in the U.S. use tire crumb rubber infill alone or mixed with sand or alternative materials. Concerns have been raised about exposures of field users to the many potential tire chemical constituents. Most previous U.S. research studies examining tire crumb rubber at synthetic fields have been relatively small, restricted to a few fields or material sources, and limited chemical constituents measured. Characterizing chemical, physical, and microbiological constituents and properties for tire crumb rubber is needed to improve human exposure assessment. Working under the U.S. Federal Research Action Plan, researchers collected tire crumb samples from nine tire recycling plants and 25 outdoor and 15 indoor synthetic turf fields across the U.S. Field ages ranged from new installations to 12 years old. Tire crumb samples were analyzed for metals using acid digestion and ICP/MS. SVOCs were extracted with 1:1 hexane/acetone followed by GC/MS and LC/MS analyses. Dynamic chamber tests measured VOC and SVOC emissions at 25° and 60°C. SVOC and VOC analyses included both targeted analyses for chemicals of interest (e.g. polyaromatic hydrocarbons) as well as non-targeted analyses to more fully characterize chemical constituents. Particle size, moisture content, and sand fraction were characterized. Bioaccessibility tests were performed for metals and SVOCs using simulated saliva, sweat, and gastric fluids. Tire crumb rubber samples were found to contain many metal, SVOC, and VOC chemicals across a wide range of concentrations. Chemical constituent information is important but not sufficient for assessing human exposures. Material variability, environmental conditions, bioaccessibility, and human activity factors are among the complex parameters needed to understand exposures at synthetic turf fields.


We will update this story as we obtain more information.

For now parents need to insist the materials used on sports or any Bethel school fields are guaranteed safe.

Write to officials here:

First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker: KnickerbockerM@bethel-ct.gov

Planning & Zoning Commission, Chairwoman Kitty Grant: landuse@bethel-ct.gov

Superintendent of Bethel Public Schools, Dr. Christine Carver: carverc@bethel.k12.ct.us

Town Attorney Martin Lawlor: martin.j.lawlor@snet.net