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Duluth playground material questioned

The Duluth school district's rubber mulch playground replacement has been called into question by a metro-area attorney, who appears to be representing a wood products company that she also owns.

Yvonne Doose sent an email to Duluth School Board members Tuesday that included a report pertaining to the engineered wood fiber that is replacing rubber mulch on most district playgrounds.

Doose, an attorney from St. Anthony, Minn., sent the letter on behalf of Sylva Corp. in Princeton, Minn. She is listed as an owner and vice president of the company on a professional online profile. She wrote that representatives from Sylva visited playground sites in Duluth, and alleges that the wood product being used is not actually engineered wood fiber, that the product's certification is under investigation, that it's not manufactured from "unadulterated" tamarack, that it has not been tested at 12 years of age as required by project specifications and is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act as installed.

The company that supplied the engineered wood fiber is from Cohasset.

Duluth superintendent Bill Gronseth said the data sent by Doose is being reviewed, noting the district had tests on the wood fiber performed by national testing companies, and has those results. He said those tests will be reviewed again.

Board chairman David Kirby said the project's specifications included being ADA compliant, along with many other requirements.

To his knowledge, those requirements have been met, he said, noting administration planned to meet with Doose in the coming days. If the wood fiber doesn't meet specifications, Kirby said, it would have to be removed and replaced to specifications. He expected the matter would be discussed by the board at an upcoming business committee meeting.

With work beginning this summer, most of the playgrounds have been completed. Two playgrounds — at Lowell and Myers-Wilkins elementaries — are to be finished in the next few days. The project was approved by the board after months of lobbying from a parent group that was concerned about the potential toxicity of the rubber mulch. The state of California and the federal government are studying the material, but results have not been released.