Golf courses are known for having perfect, weed-free turf. But this perfection comes at a price. Many grasses on our local golf courses are not native to Ontario and require intense maintenance not only to stay green and lush but to ensure its very survival. If left unmanaged, they quickly succumb to insect predators, fungal diseases, and are overtaken by local grasses and plants.
In order to maintain their pristine condition, golf courses use many types of pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides) – about 20 different types in our area. In many cases up to seven times the average amount used on farms. And while pesticides are excellent at killing off targeted insects, unwanted plants, and fungus, when applied to golf course turf, pesticides can migrate to groundwater and nearby streams. Once there they can damage the surrounding environment, often killing off native aquatic and insect life, and posing a danger to our drinking water.
We have seven golf courses in the Blue Mountain watershed, both private and semi-private. Because the public and semi-private courses in our area use more native grasses, they only use about one sixth of the pesticides of private clubs. Private golf courses are the greatest contributors of pesticides to our local environment, and nearly 80% of these pesticides are fungicides. Long term use or overuse of fungicides makes fungal diseases resistant to those chemicals. This usually forces users to apply more fungicides or even switch to other pesticides and pesticide mixtures to achieve the desired effect.
We have 4 concerns about Ontario’s regulations on golf course pesticide use as follows:
· The use of a Class 9 pesticide on a golf course should be prohibited until there is a published Provincial Water Quality Objective (PWQO) for that pesticide,
· The use of a Class 9 pesticide on a golf course should be prohibited where the pesticide concentration cannot be analyzed down to the level of the PWQO by an accredited Canadian laboratory,
· Regulations are needed that would require routine monitoring under the Pesticides Act for watercourses flowing from golf courses that use Class 9 pesticides, and
· The current deadlines allow the regulated usage reports to be published by golf courses up to 20 months after application, which is much too late for any corrective action. We propose publication of usage no later than five days after application.
CHALLENGES WITH REGULATION, REPORTING, AND TESTING
The Watershed Trust is concerned about the potential of pesticide impact to area streams that flow from the Blue Mountains Watershed into Georgian Bay. Although our area golf courses are required to report the pesticides that they use and how much they apply each season, this information is often not reported for as long as 20 months after the fact. For most of the pesticides used on our golf courses, there exist no current federal or provincial regulations on maximum allowable levels that can run off into nearby streams and water bodies. Furthermore, for some of the pesticides on our local golf courses there are no laboratories in Canada that can test for their presence. Yet the labeling on all of these products states that they pose a danger to human health and/or the environment.
THE WATERSHED TRUST’S ROLE
Since 2008, the Watershed Trust has been regularly conducting sampling of water runoff from area golf courses and documenting our findings. We have contacted Environment Canada as well as the Ministry of the Environment to voice our concerns and to make our recommendations. We continue to communicate with federal and provincial authorities with the intention of improving the legislative framework around pesticide use and its impact on water quality.
YOU CAN HELP
You can help the Trust in its efforts by becoming a member or by making a tax-deductible donation. If you are a golfer, inquire with your golf course about their pesticide use and encourage them to take up more sustainable turf management practices.
You can also write to:
Chris Ballard, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
Toll Free: 1-800-565-4923
Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
11th Floor, Ferguson Block
77 Wellesley Street West
Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health
272 St-George Street (Main Office)
Moncton, New Brunswick