On Feb. 19, the Hartford Courant newspaper ran a story that revealed the lack of monitoring by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) for pesticide use in Connecticut.
To anyone familiar with the DEEP, the findings, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, didn’t come as a surprise. The department is incredibly understaffed, and has neither the resources nor the manpower to keep tabs on all users of pesticides. According to the story, the pesticide regulation unit has shrunk by 25 percent in the last 10 years or so. This may come as a shock to some, but smaller government doesn’t necessarily mean better government.
The biggest pesticide lawbreakers appear to be unregistered lawn care companies, which are a burr in the saddle of legitimate lawn care businesses.
According to the story, “Licensed pesticide applicators are angry because they say the state isn’t doing enough to enforce laws against unscrupulous, untrained, fly-by-night operators that are illegally using these chemicals, according to Erica Fearn, executive director of the Connecticut Environmental Council, a group representing lawn care companies, landscapers, groundskeepers, and other businesses and public officials that use pesticides.”
The lack of oversight is also happening in Massachusetts.
“Retailers/suppliers are supposed to ask for a license number [from buyers] to purchase bulk amounts of product, the term bulk being somewhat discretionary,” a friend of mine in the lawn care business told me. “Suppliers/distributors are vigilant about the requirement as the level of enforcement is consistent. Most other points of sale (especially big box stores) aren’t regulated on the same level, making it easier for the unlicensed applicator to operate. Even when they get caught, the penalties lack any sort of teeth, especially for first-time offenders.”
One interesting point of the Courant piece is that golf is mentioned just once, and only in passing.
“The most commonly used herbicides and fertilizers tend to be far less toxic than many insecticides, for example, and the amounts used at one golf course can be vastly different from the applications at another,” the article stated.
No revelation of hoards of unlicensed superintendents purchasing bulk amounts of chemicals illegally. In fact, not even a hint of misdeeds on the part of anyone in the Connecticut golf maintenance industry.
It’s good that the Courant revealed the lack of enforcement. People need to know that unlicensed and unscrupulous businesses, but not superintendents, are applying potentially harmful chemicals illegally.
The story also creates a wonderful opportunity for the golf course maintenance industry to wave its flag, the one that says, “We’re good stewards of the environment!”
This could’ve been the time for Connecticut superintendents, New England superintendents and the GCSAA to tout their track records of purchasing, applying and recording the use of chemicals in safe and legal ways in a letter to the editor.
It would be great if one day this self-promotion doesn’t have to occur, but for now it still does. I was reminded of that recently.
Lewis Black is an acerbic, witty, brilliant and hilarious comedian. He makes a regular appearance on the Daily Show. On YouTube, search out “Lewis Black” and “The Devil’s Handiwork.” It’s him at his finest. (A word of warning, he often uses profanity.)
I recently stumbled across, “Golfers by Lewis Black.” For the most part, he dead cold nails the topic. His views of golf and those who play it come from the perspective of someone who’s hooked on the game.
“There is, I promise you, no greater group of idiots, collectively, than golfers,” he says during the rant.
He describes golfers as people who are constantly striving to attain the lofty goal of not being terrible. “What kind of a … fruitcake aspires to be less than [crappy]?”
Then, after a rant on what the self-loathing internal dialogue of a golfer sounds like during the round, he sums up the sport this way: “Golf was a game designed for people who don’t hate themselves enough in their daily lives.”
He ends, however, the good-natured attack in disappointing fashion, misstating course maintenance practices.
“Don’t ever let a golfer tell you that they care about nature. Every golf course pretty much is covered with enough chemicals that you could destroy a village,” he said.
For someone with Black’s intelligence to make such an uneducated statement shows that plenty of work still needs to be done informing the public at large, not just the golfing public, what superintendents do and, just as importantly, what they don’t do.