Letter: Fore! Poison

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To the editor:

Trichlorfon, an insecticide that may cause paralysis and death, [i] is one of a score of toxic chemicals used on the golf course in Oak Hills Park.

These chemicals threaten the well-being of humans, mammals, birds, fish, other aquatic animals, invertebrates, and plants. Nevertheless the Oak Hills Park Authority (OHPA), the autonomous entity that manages the financially stressed taxpayer subsidized course, purchased nearly $100,000 worth of them in 2013 according to its financial statements. Yet, as the Audubon Society has pointed out and Audubon certified golf courses have demonstrated, they are not needed to maintain the fairways or the greens.

What, then, is the reason the Oak Hills Authority is not following the Audubon Society’s environmentally friendly guidelines and seeking the society’s certification that it is doing so? That is a question Norwalk’s Planning and Zoning Commission should raise when it takes up the issue of the OHPA’s “Master Plan” at its meeting on July 15.

Clearly the Commission along with Common Council members and the mayor should demand that the public be informed on a regular basis about the chemicals the OHPA is using on the golf course, the dangers those chemicals present, and the efforts being made to mitigate their harmful effects. Additionally, they should demand the OHPA make known what chemicals it maintains in storage and whether those chemicals are being stored according to their recommended safety instructions.

Recently, Nancy on Norwalk’s Nancy Chapman obtained a list of chemicals currently being used by the OHPA. On that list are four potential carcinogens: Bifenthrin, Vinclozolin, Iprodione, and Chlorothanlolin.[ii] Furthermore, according to the National Pesticide Information Center and The Extension Toxicology Network summaries, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fact sheets and other sources available on the web they along with other chemicals on the list have additional harmful (even deadly) effects on humans, mammals, birds, fish, other aquatic animals, bees, other invertebrates, plants and the supply of safe drinking water (see the table below).


Harriet Abel

Paul Cantor

Ursula Corkutt

Larry Flynn

Peggy Holton

Diane Keefe

Scott Kimmich

Yvonne Lopaur

Peter Schuerch’s

Suzanne Ste. Therese

George Wolf

Toxic chemicals chart
Toxic chemicals chart

[i]The Extension Toxicology Network (EXTOXNET). EXTOXNET is the Pesticide Information Project of Cooperative Extension Offices of Cornell University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, and University of California at Davis. http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/pyrethrins-ziram/trichlorfon-ext.html

[ii]  For more information on the toxic effect of these chemicals go to: www.beyondpesticides.org/dailynewsblog/?p=13301



12 responses to “Letter: Fore! Poison”

  1. cc-rider

    Have any of you made an attempt to or had any conversation(s) with the club superintendent about any of your concerns?

  2. EveT

    To what extent are these chemicals used by Norwalk Recreation & Parks and by private landscapers around Norwalk? I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned about lawn chemicals, but this letter singles out Oak Hills as if they are the only place where such chemicals are used.

    Have there been any cases of “paralysis and death” among Oak Hills golfers or Oak Hills employees? Or among golfers or employees at other golf courses that use the same chemicals?

    Also, readers need to be aware that Audubon International is a paid program; golf courses pay a fee to get certified. They are not affiliated with the National Audubon Society, contrary to what is stated in the letter.

  3. Yvonne Lopaur

    In response to cc-riders question: “Have any of you made an attempt to or had any conversation(s) with the club superintendent about any of your concerns?” Yes, the superintendent attends the monthly OHPA’s meeting where others and I have brought up the issue of chemical use time and again. At the June, 2014 meeting, for example, I asked the chair of the OHPA if the Authority would seek Audubon certification and his reply was equivocal. Equally equivocal is the statement in the Authority’s “Master Plan” that it will “take steps to incorporate the National Audubon Society recommendations for sustainability practices for golf courses and the park in general where feasible and cost efficient.” Furthermore, included with a letter I wrote that was published in The Hour and Nancy on Norwalk in February were pictures of the sheds where the golf course’s chemicals are stored. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2014/02/letter-hazardous-chemicals-among-reasons-oak-hills-should-shrink/ In short, the Authority and the superintendent are well aware of our concern regarding the hazards posed by the chemicals they are using but they have made no effort to respond to that concern in a forthright and transparent manner. The Authority should seek Audubon certification and simultaneously make clear at its monthly meetings the chemicals it is using, the effect they have on the environment, whether they are Audubon approved, and where and how they are being stored. And the fact that it has not done and has not indicated that is going to do so is troubling, to say the least. It is another sign of mismanagement, dismissiveness of public concerns and, in general, disregard for the wellbeing of the public. Just consider the damage that is caused by the runoff of these chemicals into wells and Long Island Sound. These costs alone are likely incalculable.

  4. Suzanne

    The National Audubon Society is concerned, along with its International Alliances, with preserving bird life throughout the world.
    Audubon International, of which the Audubon Golf Sanctuary Program is affiliated, is likewise a non-profit organization but concerned with sustainable communities, among them being golf courses.
    The annual registration fee for the Audubon Sanctuary Program endorsed by the USGA is $200.00.
    The letter does not specify the Audubon Sanctuary Program as endorsed by the nonprofit Audubon International but both organizations are legitimate and highly rated for their respective works throughout the globe.
    That the letter did not specify the difference between these two excellent conservation programs takes nothing away from the concerns that poisons are regularly used on the golf course when a better, more ecologically sound and possibly cheaper route could be taken. That this option has been ignored and not under serious consideration under the auspices of the Master Plan, adds to an already polluted environment.
    The golf course has the option to do the right thing as have more than 2,200 golf courses around the world have done.
    http://www.usga.org/Content.aspx?id=26126 The link to the USGA Audubon Sanctuary Program as endorsed by International Audubon.

  5. Steve M

    Note to Mayor Rilling:

    If you want be a hit at the next National Mayor’s gathering, let your peers know that all they have to do to clean up their city’s environments is to mention the words “driving range”.

  6. Debora

    The $200 for audubon certification is less than the $250 fee the state charges for golf courses that are over 1,000 yards. They should be able to make it selling even more discounted fees.
    That said, there is an assumption here that OHPA is storing the chemicals in an unsafe or noncompliant manner.
    You may want to go offline with Shelley and review the history here.
    It would be nice if we could be concerned about the unremediated soil contamination there that is a violation of the lease for over a year now. The OHPA is insisting that the City foot the bill for the cleanup.

  7. cc-rider

    Yvonne- have you actually conversed back and forth with the superintendent? Going to a meeting and voicing concerns is not the same thing as having a one on one discussion with a human being.

  8. Suzanne

    I think part of the issue is storage of these chemicals but the real issue is that Oak Hills, being as large as it is, uses these chemicals at all.

  9. cc-rider

    How about Nancy or Mark interview the golf course superintendent?

  10. I just read Audubon Internationals Environmental Management Practices for Golf Courses. To my surprise they allow judicial use of pesticides. I feel it’s time to work with Oak Hills instead of accusing it of wrong doing at every opportunity.

  11. Tom Reynolds

    The Cantor-types just hate the OHPA. Nothing else. First, they didn’t want a driving range, then they wanted to cut the course to 9 holes, then the accusations that Oak Hills doesn’t make any money (false accusation), then that the park is subsidized by taxpayers (again, a false accusation), then that the Master Plan was illegally constructed. Now the Park is poisoning the citizens of Norwalk? Come on now, just go away!

  12. Suzanne

    Dear Mr. Reynolds, I think all of the things you have listed have indeed been obstacles to the OHPA. In fact, the OHPA has brought this activism and peskiness to their door by not being open with the complaining citizens. If meetings were conducted in a civil manner, issues addressed respectfully and cooperation on both sides existed, a real dialogue could take place and some of these issues could either be dispelled or addressed. As it is, treating the complainants like so many nuisance insects just raises the bar for more problems to appear. There is a lot to be said for transparency and civility, mutual understanding and pragmatism in addressing issues even under the most difficult circumstances. The OHPA has not been honest about a number of issues, some of which you address, or, simply, silent. There is no organization that affects so many constituents and is so large that gets away with that in Norwalk Town government to my knowledge. Remember that, “..by the people, for the people” thing? OHPA could solve many of their own problems by being open about meetings, finances, Master Plan development and the environment.

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