SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The South Orange Board of Trustees unanimously approved at its Feb. 25 meeting a resolution approving a contract with Trugreen Commercial to reseed and fertilize the playing fields in South Orange and Maplewood, with the provision that weed-killing chemicals cannot be used on any South Orange fields. Trustee Howard Levison pulled the resolution to object to the use of chemicals, saying that he didn’t want them used on Cameron Field near the Rahway River.
The resolution was passed with the provision that if chemicals do need to be used, the BOT would be alerted beforehand.
“It specifically says the use of this product in areas where soils are permeable, particularly where the water table is shallow, may result in contamination,” Levison said at the meeting. “I think our objective should be protecting the environment and growing grass.”
Trustee Walter Clarke, who is the BOT liaison to the South Orange Environmental Commission, said that Scott Bills, a consultant from Sports Field Solutions LLC, will decide whether the chemicals will be used.
“I share Trustee Levison’s concerns that we should not use them,” Clarke said at the meeting. “Our fields are adjacent to a river and I think those of us on the water committee know very well what goes around comes around when we’re talking about chemicals. It’s very likely ourselves or some other town will just be filtering out water later on.”
Clarke said he likes 95 percent of the plan that Bills presented to the BOT, which includes grass blankets that will create heat in the ground and allow grass to grow faster. He said he is hopeful that the chemicals would not have to be used on Cameron Field.
“Hopefully we have good success with the mats they’re using and that can establish the roots so we can turn around the process,” Clarke said.
Trustee Karen Hartshorn Hilton said that Bills does not want to use weed-killer chemicals, and that the village has to find the balance between making the fields playable, safe and environmentally friendly.
“He doesn’t want to use them as much as we do,” Hilton said at the meeting. “But we also know how important the safety of our fields are and our children’s recreation is, so we have to run that balance and it is a delicate balance. We have to make sure the fields are playable and the grass has a chance to grow.”
Levison wanted to eliminate the use of the chemicals from the plan entirely, although it will raise the cost of the process from the initial $63,365. Village Administrator Adam Loehner confirmed at the meeting that eliminating chemicals would elevate the cost.
“We decided years ago to not use chemicals on the grass and the problem is this is a one-time thing to get the grass going again,” Trustee Mark Rosner said at the meeting. “You’ve got to draw the line somewhere. If it costs us more money to reseed or do other things, then that’s the way we should be doing it.”
Trustee Deborah Davis Ford also supported removing the use of chemicals from the resolution, saying the cost is worth not having contaminated water in the future.
“We have to make the short-term decision about saving money to seed and have grass for recreation, or pay a lot more later for the health of our citizens,” Davis Ford said at the meeting.