Angus Matthews with a lump of the plastic turf that is quickly spreading from the new Oak Bay High soccer pitch and directly into Bowker Creek. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

VIDEO: Oak Bay High soccer turf closed indefinitely as plastic sheds into Bowker Creek

Resident stumbles on Bowker Creek plastic contamination

Oak Bay High is now oh-for-two in the athletic field department since being rebuilt in 2015.

First it was revealed that the natural grass pitch, which will be open to all users and also serve to host the school’s cherished rugby Barbarians men’s and women’s teams, was improperly installed. This year it was dug up and re-installed as the Greater Victoria School District (SD61) filed for compensation against the company that installed it.

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

However, the new artificial turf had been in use successfully from its 2015 installation until now.

On Monday, SD61 made a decision to close the field indefinitely as thousands of the artificial plastic green blades of grass are finding their way directly into Bowker Creek and likely the ocean. For now it will be covered with a tarp. This will prevent users from tracking it off field, and stop the wind from blowing the material off field.

Spokesperson Lisa McPhail noted SD61 will be replacing the turf in its entirety, but didn’t know when.

She noted the school district already installed mats into the storm drains and tarp barriers at the base of the fence to catch the plastic.

SD61 will also replace the field entirely which will have a major impact on Bays United. The football club is in the third year of a 25-year deal with SD61 as its primary user.

Bays Utd. spokesperson Jen Morgan said they have been displaced and have put a notice out to the membership as their field scheduler desperately seeks alternate places to play.

“We are told that its closed indefinitely until there’s a solution,” Morgan said.

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.

A group of concerned residents who are alerted to the disintegrating Oak Bay High turf combed Willows Beach where Bowker Creek enters the Salish Sea and found eight strands of green plastic. They can’t prove the strands are from the Oak Bay High turf but they are identical in appearance.
(Angus Matthews Photo)/td>

Upon further inspection, the white strips are the same blades of artificial grass but are from the painted lines that define the pitch, such as the sidelines and penalty area.

“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.”

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 very similar likeness.

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

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 Bowker Creek.
(Angus Matthews Photo)

“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.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

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