Work is expected to begin on replacement of the artificial turf and track at Oliver Ames High School towards the end of June. The project should be completed by around Aug. 23.

After a lengthy discussion with parents concerned about possible health risks from artificial turf, the School Committee voted 4-1 Thursday, June 13, to approve a contract with RAD Sports for $688,684 for the project. School Committee member Michelle Durrance cast the opposing vote.

Several parents called for delaying the project to allow for testing of water runoff at the field and more exploration of organic or grass fields.

A motion to require an organic rather than the current rubber crumb fill passed at Town Meeting in May but the voters then reconsidered the question and the motion failed.

“There is scientific support on the dangers of synthetic turf,” said Kim Dougherty, who added she is a parent, lacrosse coach, neighbor of the field and attorney.

“There’s no reason to rush this,” Dougherty said. “It has not been deemed unplayable. They can continue to play on the turf while we get cost alternatives.”

School Committee members also that such options had been explored and reviewed by a subcommittee and the consultant, Activitas, hired by the School Department last year.

“We did look at the cost differences and have looked at it for over a year,” School Committee member Jacqueline Weisman said. “We have looked at alternatives.”

School Committee member Caroline O’Neill said an organic infill would cost $200,000 more than the available funds as well require installation of an irrigation system and staff for maintenance.

To accommodate all the use the current field allows would take three grass fields, officials said. Installing a grass field could cost about $500,000, officials said.

“If you have a grass field every four or five years you have to stay off the field for one year,” Director of School Operations David Twombley said.

School Committee members said delaying the project this summer could also push it to next summer.

School Committee Chairman Nancy DeLuca said delaying repair to the track could mean needing to completely replace it at a higher cost.

“The track is on the verge now,” she said.

“I’ve talked to many parents who are willing to spend money to get a safe environment for our children,” Dougherty said.

Resident Kyla Bennett, director at New England Chapter at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said she tested water from the bubblers at OAHS and found Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals manufactured since the 1940s, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. Such chemicals don’t break down and they can accumulate over time, according to the site. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects, the site stated.

Bennett said there are currently no federal or state regulatory limits for PFAS, only advisories, so the levels are not illegal. She said she did want to determine if the artificial turf was the source by testing water runoff at the field.

Other sources could be the town’s wastewater treatment plant.

“Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s safe,” Dougherty said. “Look how long it took to take lead off the market. Look at cigarettes.”

The committee ultimately voted to approve the contact with Durrance opposed. She supported allowing time for the water testing. School Committee member Jennifer Starr said before the board allowed water testing it should check with town attorneys about implications.

“If you get a positive result on that you get into ‘where is it coming from?’ and that could delay it even further,” Twombley said. “It’s going to start a whole chain of events.”

“The town voted for this particular project,” Weisman said.

“No one wants anybody to get sick,” DeLuca said. “And we don’t want to end up with a field that is unusable because we didn’t move quick enough.”

Bennett asked if the project goes forward that the district post signage at the field with warnings similar to what Occupational Safety and Health Administration posts when workers install fields such as shake out your clothes, don’t bring food, etc.

The project has been funded at $812,317 with monies coming from the Community Preservation Fund, the town’s capital budget, the athletic revolving fund as well as $200,000 in private donations.

The turf replacement bids came in under Activitas’ original estimate, Twombly said. The project will also include a 5 percent contingency and expenses for construction and oversight by Activitas.

The expected life of a turf field is about 10 years. When it is no longer safe to use, the schools will have to find other fields at Stonehill College or out of town to play on. Most towns in the Hockomock League have artificial turf fields.