A brand new soccer field opened Saturday on the North Side, but no one will be scoring any points if a community group has its way.
Earlier this year, The Latin School of Chicago began building an artificial-turf field north of LaSalle Drive, a project that cost nearly $2 million. In exchange, the college preparatory school would receive first priority when reserving and using the field.
However, a group of park advocates called Protect Our Parks have been fighting the school and the Chicago Park District since the beginning. They did not want acres of the formerly open, grassy meadow to be turned into allegedly toxic artificial turf. Secondly, they did not like the fact that public parkland was being privately leased.
The Park District continued building the field, buying out The Latin School's portion of the project, but last month, POP filed a lawsuit, alleging that the artificial turf contains dangerous lead and other harmful chemicals. The group also accuses the Park District and The Latin School of not conducting independent tests of the soil, the air (the field borders the heavily trafficked lanes of Lake Shore Drive), or the turf product.
The Great Lakes Centers for Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health, a local affiliate of the U.S. Center for Disease Control, has issued the following statement: "We advise that the City of Chicago should conduct an assessment of the environmental health risks of the artificial turf field in Lincoln Park before continuing with its installation. We believe that the data collected by multiple researchers and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrate the need to conduct such a risk assessment. Until a risk assessment is conducted we strongly urge park planners to stick with regular grass fields instead of installing a product that may harbor bacteria, function as a heat sink, and may contain chemicals which are hazardous to children."