N.J. college stadium needs to get the lead out

April 24, 2008 3:40:51 PM PDT
Contractors are beginning to pull up the Astroturf at the College of New Jersey's Lions Stadium in Ewing. High levels of lead were discovered during random testing by the state health department and officials passed on the bad news.

"We found out in the last week and a-half," said college spokesman Matt Golden. "It had an elevated lead content in the nylon fibers of the artificial turf." The college had actually planned to replace the 10 year old turf this summer and budgeted $600,000 to $800,000 to do it.

But now they are trying to resurface the stadium before May 16th when almost 1,300 students are due to attend graduation ceremonies there.

"It sounds a little scary when you first hear of it," said student Jenna Bauberger. "But no one, I don't think, was too concerned with it."

"I think they should get rid of it. I don't want anyone getting some lead poisoning type thing," said another student, Kyle Wu.

Thousands of athletes have played football, lacrosse, soccer and other sports on the artificial turf over the last decade. But health officials have told the school that there are no significant health risks present even for those with extensive exposure.

Students such as David Kotler were not too worried about the health issues. "I haven't really been down there that much." Kotler said. "And it's not like my face was being rubbed in the ground or anything.

"I personally don't think it's a big deal. But I guess it's good they're trying to to fix the mistake," said Ryan Niedoba.

Student athletes who do spend time out on the turf are anxious for the field to be fixed and reopened.

Softball player Emily Witko and a friend want to get back on the diamond. "I know the two of us are a little frustrated because our intramural season was cut short," Witko said. "We were on a pretty awesome softball team and we're not able to play anymore." Graduating Seniors such as Liam Gallagher, have a special interest in seeing the field resurfaced quickly. Their graduation ceremony is just weeks away.

"I am worried because I'd like to have the ceremony out there because I watched my brother do it. It's kind of a tradition to have it out there," Gallagher said.