IN THE NAME OF prettifying its golf course, the Chevy Chase Club, set in a dense residential area a few hundred yards north of the District in Montgomery County, is planning to use a highly toxic, ozone-destroying gas pesticide shunned by most of the developed world and, since 2005, banned for production in the United States by the Environmental Protection Agency. The club, which did not inform its hundreds of neighbors of its plans, says it researched the gas and determined it posed no threat — thereby substituting its environmental judgment for that of the world’s leading experts.
Golf courses and other users have been allowed to continue using the substance providing they tap supplies that were stockpiled in train yards and other facilities before the EPA started phasing out the substance in 1995. But unlike some agricultural producers who secured permanent exemptions, golf courses must stop using the fumigant after 2013. Mindful of that deadline — but less mindful of the health of the environment — the club is hastening to get the gas in the ground next fall.
One club member forwarded a copy of the club’s newsletter that announced its intention to use the gas to the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization, which sent it to The Post. That suggests that not all the club’s members are thrilled with the decision. And with good reason.
Methyl bromide is thought to be an effective weed- and pest-killer, but it’s also terrible for the environment. The damage it causes to the earth’s atmosphere was recognized nearly 25 years ago by the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty to limit the use of ozone-depleting substances. In addition, it is sufficiently toxic that its application is handled exclusively by professionals in protective clothing who inject the gas into the ground and then immediately cover the affected area with a tarp for 72 hours.
A member of the Chevy Chase Club’s board of governors, Suzy DeFrancis, told Post reporter Darryl Fears that “we take our environmental stewardship very seriously at our club.” She added that the club is prepared to share information with neighbors who have concerns. However, by failing to consult with neighbors about its decision to use the gas, the club undercut its own case, raising questions both about its concern for the community and its stated determination to protect the environment.
Golf courses nationwide, including the one at the Chevy Chase Club, have made do without methyl bromide in the past, and by law will have to do so again in the near future. Rather than rushing to beat the 2013 ban, a smarter and more responsible move would be for the club to find an environmentally friendly substitute now.