Campus projects not without environmental impact

Before winter break, outside of a fifth period AP Environmental Science class, construction workers took out an oak tree to make room for the new amphitheater, drawing the attention of students and APES teacher Jason Maas-Baldwin.

“That tree, all it was going to do was take up one person’s [or] two people’s spaces,” Environmental Club co-president Ethan Atkins said at the time. “What significant impact would that make?”

The loss of one of the oldest trees on campus is one of the many environmental changes CHS is undergoing with the current construction of the amphitheater and the remolding of the football field in March.

Despite previously losing habitat when the freshman field was transformed to a parking lot, habitat loss is still prevalent with current construction.

“Obviously, there’s habitat destruction in the form of a tree,” Maas-Baldwin says, “which was a habitat to several species of organisms, everything from birds to fungi to insects.”

On top of habitat destruction, construction leads to an increase in impermeable surfaces, like concrete, Maas-Baldwin explains. Increases in impermeable surfaces lead to runoff, but it looks like not too many impermeable surfaces are being added, Maas- Baldwin adds.

“While the watering bill will go down,” Environmental Club co-president Nick Johnson says about the amphitheater, “runoff will increase and any dirt, chemical or trash will be washed away with that.”

Across from the amphitheater, the football field is set to be transformed this spring into sports facility with synthetic field.

“With a synthetic turf, obviously we don’t have to water it,” Principal Rick Lopez says. “Every once in a while you have to clean it. We’ll use water once in a while, but nowhere near the amount of water you need to keep a field green.”

Lopez notes that the synthetic field also doesn’t need to be mowed, so the amount of fossil fuels used on campus will decrease.

Along with reductions in water and fossil fuels, Johnson believes that the new field will reduce chemical runoff from paints, fertilizers and pesticides.

“On the other hand,” Johnson adds, “the turf also increases runoff. Studies have shown that chemicals within the turf and rubber wash away with a heavy rain.”

While Lopez can’t be specific on what material the field is made of, according to the Paradigm Laboratories in Rochester New York, synthetic fields are often made from recycled tires, which can have chemicals that can lead to health problems like cancer. The lab analyzed unused samples of synthetic turf, finding concentrations of lead, zinc, manganese and cobalt in five out of five samples.

“We’ve seen no instances in our research of schools who have used synthetic turf as having a harmful effect on the health of the student athletes,” CHS athletic director Golden Anderson says. “That includes schools who have been using it for ten plus years.”

-Caitlin Chappell