Like other golf courses across America, the Chevy Chase Club in suburban Maryland is caught up in the ancient battle between man and weeds. The club recently informed its members of a major offensive against ugly patches of invasive grass that impede a ball’s roll toward the hole on their velvety greens.
But its preferred method of killing weeds involves a controversial pesticide called methyl bromide, which the Environmental Protection Agency barred most organizations from using years ago.
Methyl bromide chokes weeds down to their roots and wipes out other pests such as termites. But the odorless gas also contributes to thinning the ozone, and high doses can have serious health effects. The EPA started phasing it out in 1995 as part of the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances.
Although manufacturers were banned from producing methyl bromide in 2005, and contractors were barred from using it for most purposes, groups such as the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and farmers lobbies fought successfully for a “critical-use” extension. No other fumigant is as effective, they argued.
Golf courses are allowed to use methyl bromide until December 2013, but they can only draw from supplies that were stockpiled before 2005. About 36 million pounds of methyl bromide was available in 1995, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. About a third of that was used as it was phased out over 10 years, leaving about 25 million pounds.
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