British Columbia

Sunshine Coast school board sues after 7 school fields found riddled with trash

The school board on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast is suing the company it hired to refresh topsoil on several of its fields, claiming the contractor supplied truckloads of garbage-laden turf instead of top quality sod as agreed.

School district claims top soil contained shards of plastic, broken glass, bits of ceramic and splintered wood

Parents say they found chunks of plastic and broken glass at a school field in Pender Harbour, B.C., on Sept. 1, 2018. (Jason Haines)

The school board on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast is suing the company it hired to refresh topsoil on several of its fields, claiming the contractor supplied truckloads of garbage-laden turf instead of clean sod.

In a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday, the board alleged Top Quality Top Soil told district staff seven of its freshly-sodded playing fields were safe for students when the grass was later found to be ridden with shards of plastic, broken glass, bits of ceramic and splintered wood.

"Top Quality expressly warranted that it carried the "highest quality soil on the coast," the lawsuit said.

"[The company] represented to the school board that the soil was suitable for use," the claim read. "Such representations were recklessly or negligently made by Top Soil, since the soil was unsuitable."

The garbage included chunks of plastic, broken glass and ceramics, wood pellets and plastic bags, the school district says. (Jason Haines)

None of the board's claims has been tested in court. The company has not filed a response.

The fields in Sechelt, Gibsons, Roberts Creek, Halfmoon Bay and Madeira Park were closed for 35 school days last fall after parents found garbage embedded in the turf just before the first day of classes. At the time, a district spokesperson said the sod had been redone as part of annual upkeep.

The lawsuit this week said the board hired Top Soil for the job in June 2018. The filing said the company agreed to deliver "compost material mixed with river sand" for the fields.

A school parent discovered the garbage on Sept. 1. The fields were closed three days later.

Jason Haines, a professional greenskeeper at the Pender Harbour Golf Club, said he went to look for himself and found plastic bags, wood pellets and other chunks of debris in a three-foot section of the field. (Jason Haines)

Maintenance workers spent more than 1,500 hours, or about 60 days, picking the trash out of the grass by hand. The fields only reopened after the board hired an environmental firm out of pocket to inspect the grass, according to the claim.

The board said it asked Top Soil for $148,351 in January to cover the cost of the cleanup and environmental assessment, as well as compensation for the loss of the fields. The claim said the company has refused to pay.

CBC News has reached out to the school district and business for comment.

A Top Soil employee who answered a phone call Thursday said he would consult with a lawyer before commenting, but did say the company planned to file a defence.

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