Methyl Bromide Is Unwelcome in Chevy Chase
Chevy Chase residents are circulating a petition to stop the Chevy Chase Club from applying a toxic pesticide gas to its golf course in the spring.
It may be illegal to produce methyl bromide in the U.S., but it’s not illegal to use it as a pesticide and weed-killer on golf courses—not yet, anyway.
Methyl bromide has “been described as a terrorist’s dream,” said Miriam Soroush, a member of the Town of Somerset’s Environment and Parks and Natural Resources Committees at a public meeting on Tuesday night.
Methyl bromide is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a Category I acute toxin—“a designation reserved for the most deadly substances.”
“Human exposure to small amounts can produce nausea, headaches and other flu-like symptoms. In larger amounts, methyl bromide has been linked to birth defects and nerve damage in laboratory animals. Methyl bromide is also a powerful destroyer of the earth's ozone layer,” according to the EPA’s website.
After a phase-out of this colorless, odorless toxic gas ended in 2005, the gas could only be used for certain “critical uses”—killing weeds on a golf course, for example. The gas is also used in agricultural production as well.
But, by 2013, golf courses and farms must cease using methyl bromide, which still exists in stockpiles, The Washington Post reported in an editorial published last week.
When methyl bromide is applied to a lawn or farm, it is often tented, to keep the gas from spreading to nearby residential areas. It is not known, however, whether the Chevy Chase Club will tent its golf course during methyl bromide application.
The gas is heavy, so it will sink in low-lying areas, like Rock Creek, many residents pointed out at Tuesday’s meeting. The gas might also sink into the groundwater, others added.
And, with several schools in the immediate vicinity of the Chevy Chase Club—including Somerset Elementary School, Chevy Chase Elementary School, Concord Hill School and Oneness-Family School—the use of methyl bromide at the golf course poses a special risk to children.
Chevy Chase residents are asking neighbors to sign a petition to request the club to refrain from using methyl bromide next spring. To sign the petition, contact Somerset Environment Committee Chair George Wyeth at email@example.com.
The Chevy Chase Club's official stance on the issue is that the club "is acting in strict accordance with current EPA regulations allowing use of Methyl Bromide on golf courses, and we are following all the proper procedures for its safe application by a licensed firm. We are committed to protecting our environment and our golf course, both of which are important to our membership," wrote Luke O'Boyle, general manager of the club, in an email to Patch.