Most golf courses spray large amounts of fungicides and other pesticides on golf courses in order to make them picture perfect. The problem with this is that these chemicals are toxic and even carcinogenic.
These chemicals – some 500 pounds of fungicides per year plus other pesticides and around 19 different types of pesticides – are highly toxic and flow into the creeks and into Puget Sound. Many of these pesticides are not approved for use by the Integrated Pest Management Program.
The warning labels on the cans and bags say, among other things,
“toxic to invertebrates and fish, high potential for runoff into surface water after application”; “toxic to fish and aquatic organisms’, “extremely toxic to mammals and birds, or dogs and other predatory and scavenging animals feeding on baited moles”; “hazardous to fish and aquatic organisms in adjacentaquatic sites”; “runoff from treated areas may be hazardous to aquatic organisms in neighboring areas”; “toxic to birds and fish”; “highly toxic to bees and benefical insects”; “area must be vacated by non-protected persons & animals”; respirator with an organic vapor (OV) cartridge or canister with any N, R, or P filter”.
In addition to being toxic, at least two of these pesticides are classified by the EPA as “possible carcinogens”, Propiconazole and Chipco 26019 Flo. There are rumors that incidence of breast cancer is higher among women golf professionals, although I have not been able to substantiate this.
The Lynnwood Golf Course is around $1.3 million in debt. Revenues and rounds are down, and the golf course continues to lose money.
The golf course is owned 40% by the city of Lynnwood, 50% by Edmonds Community College, 40% by the city of Lynnwood, and 10% by the state of Washington.
According to Engineer William Lider:
In the preceding past five years, the City has spent over $28,600 on pesticide purchases alone;
Pesticides were used on the Golf Course according to Pesticide Application Records provided, however the City has no invoice record of their purchase;
Pesticides were purchased by the City, however there are no Pesticide Application Records documenting the proper use of these pesticides by the City;
Quantities of pesticides purchased do not appear to match quantities applied-were these pesticides “over applied” or diverted for uses not approved by the City?
The City did not provide any records for pesticide use for the year 2011; however in 2011 the City purchased nearly 100 gallons of toxic fungicides & 400 pounds of toxic granular fungicides for use by the golf course.
Over the past five years, City records indicate that 19 different pesticides were applied to the golf course; however, only 5 pesticides used appear as approved for use in Appendices D, E, or F of the City’s IPMP.
How can the golf course be saved from financial ruin? I would suggest that we make the golf course unique among golf courses in the greater Seattle area, that we make it an organic golf course. Vineyard Golf Course in Martha’s Vineyard is a completely organic golf course. President Obama has played there. Regarding cost of maintenance, the course manager says:
The club’s maintenance labor budget is higher than those of most clubs its size, but Carlson said his net costs were the same “because of the money we save on traditional pesticides, which are very expensive.
If the course were advertised as organic, non-toxic, and non-carcinogenic, golfers might come from far and wide to play on it. We would not be exposing golfers, neighbors, animals, and fish to toxic chemicals. And the course might turn a profit.
Engineer William Lider published this article in the Herald:
City needs to get out of the golf business
by William Lider, Engineer
The Herald of Everett, October 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
The city’s lease with the college requires it to pay half its net operating income for the last 10 years of the lease (2011-2021) as rent payment; yet the city has paid zero dollars in rent since Nov. 2009.
The golf course’s net operating income has decreased in a straight line from a high of about $450,000 in 2001 to $20,600 in 2012; this despite an illegal, long-term loan of $1.3 million from the city’s utility fund that the state auditor said, “violates state law as the use of this money.” Lynnwood in arrears for over $34,000 since 2009, not counting interest and the debt is climbing.
So what is the city’s solution to this financial crisis? Hire a third party contractor to manage the golf course. Exactly how does the city expect to save money by paying a middleman to operate the golf course, when it cannot even repay its own loan? Even though the city advertised to subcontract the golf course management in August, it has yet to award a contract, possibly because there are no takers for this losing operation.
Two city employees were reprimanded by the state last July for over-applying highly toxic, carcinogenic pesticides at the golf course, potentially contaminating groundwater; and failing to keep accurate records as required by law. Polluted runoff from the golf course taints Perrinville Creek and increased runoff from the lawn areas erodes the creek.
Lynnwood should take notice of its neighbor to the south. Mountlake Terrace tried exactly the same failed ideas at its Ballinger Golf Course and finally came to the realization that it was better to convert their toxic biological desert into a passive native plant park for birding and hiking that is non-polluting. Lynnwood should do the same.