Pesticides at golf club in question
Questions about the use of chemical pesticides near wetlands in the Dublin Golf Club have led officials from the Division of Pesticide Control of the State Department of Agriculture to conduct an investigation that will review procedures at the club and ensure state requirement for pesticide setback distances are being met.
Robert Rousseau, director of the Division of Pesticide Control, said in an interview Wednesday that his office had received a call from a member of the Dublin Planning Board who was concerned about the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides near the water.
Rousseau said that at the moment he is not aware of any violations by the golf club, but that the department will investigate the report and address any issues.
Planning Board member Steve Baldwin said in an interview Tuesday that he had brought the concern to the Department of Agriculture as a well as to the Select Board in May, but wasn’t aware of any actions taken by the board. “I am complaining as a citizen, not as a member of the Planning Board, because I believe in the Planning Board working as a team,” Baldwin said. “I really hope the selectmen take the issue seriously.”
Planning Board Chair Bruce Simpson said the board recently sent a letter to the Select Board asking them to review the case. “We sent a letter to the selectmen reporting this issue because the Planning Board has no enforcement power,” he said.
By press time, Select Board Chair Sterling Abram couldn’t be reached for comment.
During a Planning Board meeting held June 5 in Dublin, Baldwin handed out documents that show which chemicals and how much of each golf club staff had used in 2013; the information is on a form anyone using pesticides is required to submit to the state on yearly basis. However, the report doesn’t specify where the chemicals are being applied. For Baldwin, that information is concerning.
State regulations establish that pesticides can’t be applied closer than 400 feet from public wells and 25 feet of non-public waters.
The report, signed by Dublin Golf Club Superintendent Milton Brown Jr. detailed nine chemical pesticides being used on the greens.
“When they saw this information, someone in the [Planning] Board meeting said, ‘How can I know that they are not putting these chemicals in and contaminating the water,’” Baldwin said. He said the brook that flows in the area of the golf club comes off the mountain and also is fed by a tributary of Dublin Lake to Howe Reservoir.
Baldwin said using chemical fertilizers near the wetland violates the Wetland Overlay Ordinance intended to promote public health safety and general welfare, and to protect wetlands around Dublin.
According to draft of the minutes of the June 8 meeting, John Morris, a member of the Conservation Commission and a member of the Dublin Golf Club as well, said that the Conservation Commission had reviewed the wetland ordinance last year. In an email Morris sent to the Planning Board on Tuesday, he wrote, “As far as I know there is no regulation on pesticides in Dublin’s zoning ordinances.”
But according to the town’s land use regulations, Article XIII, A: 4., the Wetland Conservation District’s purpose is to protect wetlands from pesticides. Attempts to contact Morris on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Rousseau said that the review by the Division of Pesticides will be conducted within the next couple of weeks, and the results will be presented informally to the town of Dublin. “It was a very informal request, so we will probably present the findings by calling them back,” Rousseau said. However, he said the picture would change if the Division finds that the club failed to meet the requirements: “If we find out that there are issues, our response to non-compliance would depend on what are the violations.”
Rousseau said as part of the process, the division will conduct a background check to verify that the person in charge of handling the chemical pesticides has a valid license, according to the state requirements. “The pesticide applicant license allows that individual to handle the pesticides,” Rousseau explained. He said that once applications and reports are reviewed, pesticide inspectors will conduct a site visit.
“What generally happens is that we have pesticide inspectors that will go out, investigate any concerns, and take physical samples that would be later analyzed in a laboratory to figure out what has been used or in what proximity to wetlands,” said Robert Bruleigh of the Enforcement Program of the Division of Pesticides.
Brown, who filed the pesticides report, couldn’t be reached for comment by press time.