Rubber from turf field gets close to Maroon Creek near Aspen |

Rubber from turf field gets close to Maroon Creek near Aspen

Black speckles in the snow piles at Iselin Field are little pieces of rubber, known as crumb rubber, that have been churned up during snow plowing. The Parks Department redistributes the rubber in the spring after the snow has melted.
Lauren Glendenning/The Aspen Times |

Hugh Burrows began noticing thousands of recycled tire pieces piling up in snowbanks this winter near Iselin Field. He became concerned when he saw that the rubber pellets also were making their way down an embankment that eventually leads to Maroon Creek.

Burrows, who lives close to the field, called The Aspen Times this week to report his concern about the proximity of the rubber to the creek. Parks and Open Space Director Tom Rubel learned of the concern when The Aspen Times inquired about it. He went to the site to take a look Thursday morning and ended up sending a crew to begin cleaning it up almost immediately.

“It’s still maybe 100 yards from the creek, but if we don’t pick it up, it could eventually get down there,” he said.

He said a new employee was pushing snow over the edge rather than keeping the snow piles contained on the perimeter of the flat field. Rubel said the department has been aware of plows churning up the rubber, known as crumb rubber, since the turf field was installed in 2011.

In its first year on Iselin Field, located next to the Aspen Recreation Center, the Parks Department installed a containment system to capture the rubber pieces. But since then, the decision was made to plow snow to the edges of the field in order to redistribute the rubber onto the turf field each spring.

One of the department’s new employees didn’t get the memo.

“It was a miscommunication, improper training,” Rubel said. “It was a mistake; we’re correcting it.”

There have been numerous studies on the effects crumb rubber has on water and air quality. A main concern is that zinc from the tire rubber could leach out into the water. Concerns over animals ingesting the material also have been studied.

A 2008 study by the New York-based Coastal Marine Resource Center Policy Project, “The effects of crumb rubber on water quality,” referenced another study in which water quality was studied after immersing different kinds of tires in water.

“The study found the water from both the new and used tire to contain toxic leachate and proved fatal to rainbow trout,” according to the report.

Most studies reference significant concentrations of crumb rubber as the danger, with smaller amounts causing little to no concern. Chad Rudow, the water quality coordinator at the Roaring Fork Conservancy, said this isolated incident doesn’t appear to be large enough to affect water quality.

“I’m not sure we have a level of expertise to say how big of a threat this is — it would require more study,” he said. “Offhand, I don’t see it as an immediate, large threat.”

Rudow said he appreciates when citizens take action when they see something that could be harmful to the watershed. He said the more eyes and ears out there looking out for the rivers, the better it is for everyone. In this case, the citizen’s concerns alerted the city of a problem they weren’t aware of yet.

“Any time a foreign substance is getting introduced into the river, that raises the level of concern,” he said. “We’re definitely appreciative of the fact that it sounds like the city is addressing this quickly and promptly.”

Rubel said the city takes it seriously and it hits close to home for some employees.

“The parks operation manager is a fisherman — he’s very concerned,” Rubel said.

He said the plan is to clean up and contain as much as they can now — which he estimates to be about 95 percent of the material — and then go back in the spring to vacuum up what they can’t get now.

“We will be able to contain it and get the rest of it in the spring,” he said.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User