Letter: Town solar panel projects have no potential health hazards


I am writing to address some of the misinformation being delivered in various media circles – in particular, the contemptuous maneuvering designed to sensationalize a valid concern without referencing facts. Specifically, the published levels of PFAS in the water at the NSMS/NSHS schools complex have been the target of fear-mongering by a few individuals who are politically motivated and have little interest in reality-based details. Please consider the following:

  • The solar panels installed by Green Development at the Iron Mine Hill solar farm project have no potential health hazards, per the MSDS report provided to the town of North Smithfield Planning Department. To dismiss a similar installation and use in conjunction with the expansion of the parking lot at the Dr. Paul F. Joyce Athletic Complex to ostensibly, “protect our water,” is disingenuous and ludicrous – especially considering many school districts in the state of Massachusetts – considered to have the best schools in America – have installed solar canopies on school grounds. I am happy to provide examples.  Please see the attached MSDS report for details.
  • The turf installed at the football field – now Veterans Memorial Stadium – in 2008 may well have contained PFAS materials. In fact, we will likely never know, since testing for and analysis of PFAS did not start until 2009. It’s easy to find fault with an installation when the facts are not specifically determinable. It’s also quite reckless.
  • The new turf at VMS, installed less than two years ago, does not contain harmful levels of PFAS – and my compliments (go out) to all those in the North Smithfield School Department involved in the procurement of the FieldTurf. It is possible to do things the right way, which I believe the NSSD has proven.  

The manufacturer of the turf field (FieldTurf Tarkett) stated that our VMS turf, “meets the federal government requirements.” How do I know that? I asked. I requested information and received documentation and facts. I personally am much more inclined to believe the sources as referenced and the federal government than Facebook fantasies and blatherings only intended to bash political opponents. I remain hopeful the leadership of both town and schools in North Smithfield will evaluate the facts and reach rational conclusions in how to move forward with improving the Athletic Complex, and dismiss the maniacal ramblings of those who thrive on negativity alone. 

Thank you.

Tony Guertin

North Smithfield

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  1. Mr. Guertin would do well to research the experience of Portsmouth, NH who received the same “PFAS-free” promises from these same consultants and manufacturers and did NOT get what they paid for!

    Read “‘Our community has been deceived’: Turf wars mount over PFAS”
    By E.A. Crunden, Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News, August 2022. Much documentation of this situation is also available on the Non Toxic Dover NH blog.

    A FOIA made by Non Toxic Dover NH also turned up emails that show the “independent” consultants the City of Portsmouth commissioned to test the field components were meeting with, discussing and sharing data with representatives from FieldTurf, ProPlay and USGreentech, even **agreeing to discuss/review the results PRIOR to anything being published.**

    Trust is something that is EARNED. Don’t allow these manufacturers to pull the wool over your eyes. Taxpayers should heed the clear warnings from other communities and pay close attention to class action legal proceedings moving forward against this manufacturer for deceptive and fraudulent marketing.

  2. On or before July 1, 2023, if the PFAS contaminants exceed the level of twenty parts per trillion (20 ppt), the public water supply system shall provide potable water through other means to all customers or users of the system. The requirement for a public water supply system to provide potable water to customers and users of the system through other means shall cease when monitoring results indicate that the levels of PFAS contaminants in the drinking water of the public water supply system are below the interim drinking water standard level of twenty parts per trillion (20 ppt).
    North Smithfield was 31 our own town well for the school. And you read the laws Tony?

  3. Mr. Guertin:
    Thank you for your information. I’ll be sure to read it. The Ordinance which forbids solar panels in the area of the school wells for this particular reason. Emergent chemicals are on the NS Water Supply Protection Water Commission’s radar. Who’s that you ask? Get involved in the round discussions by this group. It’s an open meeting. We’ve met 15 times since February and now we are only hearing from you? We need to protect our groundwater resources. That includes education on PFAS

    • Thanks for the info Gabby, but Mr. Guertin chooses to ignore the fact that our ordinances prevent solar canopies, just like they did to benefit Green in the creation of the overlay district. I am positively sure that the work of the WSRC is also well known to him. As far as PFAS, I do not believe that science refutes the toxicity of artificial turf. A study done by TURI in MA, indicates that those turf fields that contain crumb rubber have the highest concentration…in fact, California is looking to outlaw it. FieldTurf Turkett also produces ten different infill options, any number of which contain crumb rubber. In addition, three of their infill systems are not produced in this country. So, does our turf contain crumb rubber? And while we are at it, the people of the Town should be aware that the North Smithfield Express Football team that has 95 kids from town on their roster has been limited to two games, thanks to our connections to Wide World of Indoor Sports. And one last thing Tony, people can disagree without reverting to name calling or insulting remarks, but that is not how you role, is it?

  4. Testing of PFAS started earlier than 2009, some places as early as the late 1990s. RI was late to the party and tested started in 2013, whereas privately it could’ve been done earlier.

    For the political motivation part, I just want people to be held accountable for their infractions, which has been brought up time and time again. Such as to include that bullying tactics and sexual harassment/assault, to emphasize the point that should we really take their word on it. I also want to make sure that local leaders take the time to review ALL evidence in regards to this issue, not just letters filled with insults and misinformation such as this.

    How long did it take for Save the Bay to clean Narragansett Bay? It’s still under constant changing circumstances, but it’s “Cleanest it’s been in the last 150 years” – multiple outlets have said that. Comparing the bay from the 1980s/1990s to now is night and day. Is it not time we do the same for clean drinking water, especially in our public schools? It’s bad enough that our bodies have already changed where we can accept a certain amount of plastics in our system.

    I’ll bring up a previous science “This is the right way”, how many children were exposed to chicken pox parties that their doctors were said to be safe for them to get it, yet now they suggest the vaccine for it instead. I’m sure this also happened with the most recent covid vaccine rollouts, how many people declined it even though the science told us it was good? Whether it was for religious reasons, actual health concerns that some people couldn’t get it, or were just untrusting of the science.

    The JA Solar MSDS from 2017 (that’s old in MSDS age) shows it has PFAS in it, it also tells us to not have anything fall on it, but weather does happen. How many people have had their windshield damaged, or need to be replaced, or other parts of their vehicle fixed because of extreme weather? Are solar panels stronger than windshields? Yes, but things happen that are out of our control. It also says chemically, that it poses no real threat, but that seems short sighted not to include the big picture of everything that went into preparing the land and what we lost along the way. It also shows it was made in China, which we know doesn’t have the strictest standards nor does it have the best relations with the US. Now, if the reasoning for the Nike ban, that was later rescinded for becoming the laughing stock of the US, was due to China making most of the products, unfair labor laws, and other justifiable reasons, maybe there wouldn’t have been such a big problem, but it wasn’t. As for the solar canopies at schools, are those schools on city water or well water? This is big important information that is left out. URI has already paid a big price for their solar canopies

    The turf field reports also shows it’s made with PFAS, although at the time it says not above laboratory reporting limit, limits change though. The letter above also goes and insults the state of Massachusetts and the city of Boston, which is weird in of itself.

    I find this letter to be lacking evidence and filled with misinformation regarding the entirety of the issue. Is the turf field to blame entirely? No. Does the field add to the problem? Yes. Are solar panels the only problem? No. Do they add to the issue? Yes. No where in the letter does the mention of the many years of rock salt, the chemicals that are put into making/patching roads, or parking lots get mentioned, which are probably a higher percentage of contaminates compared to what the turf field is. Once again, just putting blame on one source of potential contaminate is short sighted and we as whole town need to start looking at the bigger picture. This letter also excludes the cost of a new filtration system needed, that WPRI has reported, could be around the $600k range. How many times have corporations and politicians lied to the public before we paid the ultimate price? Do we, the town, deserve better than what we have been given in recent years? I say yes.

  5. I have to agree with Tom. A major corporation has never lied before and as far the federal government when have they not lied. Tony taxpayers are not being negative they just want tax dollars spent on things that give the town the biggest bang for the buck. So roads are more important than football field parking when we have ample parking with just a small walk. Please note that Politian’s should make decisions for the greater population and not the wishes of a few.

  6. Tony when did you become a scientist? Also, all the cigarette manufacturers said smoking does not cause cancer but it has been proven it does. So why would anyone believe the manufacturer, of the waste of taxpayers money football field, is telling the truth. I am getting tired of yours and JB’s comments and ideas that all end up good for companies but bad for the town. How is your outsourcing of the football field working out. I will tell you, your idea has the youth football team only getting 2 days a year while a private company reaps profits on out of town groups and over priced concessions. It is time to elect new leadership in NS and just do it. Let’s divert money form sports to educating students instead.

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