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Forest Hills neighborhood fears curfew pesticide spraying on Babe Zaharias golf course next week

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Tampa residents in the Forest Hills neighborhood are fearful about the potential deleterious effects resulting from the application of a fumigant on a city owned golf course believed to be a human carcinogen.

The fumigant is called curfew, or 1,3-dichloropropenene. It’s made by Dow Agrosciences and is used to reduce the population of nematodes (round worms) and other soil-borne pests that damage developing root systems of young plants.  While prohibited from being used on golf courses in environmentally conscious California, it has been approved for use on golf courses specifically in five states the South, including Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia in addition to Florida.

Forest Hills residents, organized as the “Green Cities Alliance,” have been fighting against the chemical since it was first used on the Babe Zaharias Golf Course years ago. That 2008 incident resulted in a fine by the state against the applicator for spraying it too close to a home.

After protests by local citizens, Dow AgroSciences announced in 2009 that they would no longer use Curfew in Tampa.

Now 1,3-Dichloropropene, or 1,3-D, is scheduled to be used at Babe Zaharias Course near the Hillsborough River beginning next Tuesday, May 9, and going thru Thursday, May 11.

In a recent letter sent to homeowners, TSA president and CEO Eric Hart criticized what he called the “misinformation” that he says the Green Cities Alliance has continued to disseminate about Curfew.

He also said that the group blew off the past three TSA board meetings, because “it seems they prefer to spread their threats, rumors and unsubstantiated claims through anonymous letters and social media.”

Hart adds that the group’s “campaign of fear and misinformation continues with no documentation of their claims, completely ignoring the findings of the regulatory agencies that approve fumigants such as Curfew®. “

Hart says that the TSA has sampled “a variety” of products to reduce nematodes, but none have been as effective as Curfew. And he cites the fact that it’s approved for use throughout the state by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency as evidence that the fumigant is safe.

 As  a restricted use pesticide in Florida, Curfew must be applied according to its label and by a licensed applicator.

But Portland based scientist Nathan Donley with the Center for Biological Diversity, recently penned an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times, where he challenged the EPA assertion that the dose that people will be exposed to should not by itself cause any harm.

“Curfew is a fumigant, meaning that it’s injected into the ground as a liquid where it off-gases, infiltrating the soil and eventually making its way into the air that we breathe,” Donley writes.

Forest Hills residents are increasingly feeling frustrated about the fact they’re not getting any satisfaction about their concerns. They say the last time this was an issue, they received the backing of council members John Dingfelder, Mary Mulhern and Linda Saul-Sena.
At a meeting at activist Debra McCormack’s house last Thursday, City Councilman Luis Viera met with a group of residents, and got an earful.

“It was a wasted hour with Mr. Viera,” Sandra Duenas says in an email forwarded to SPB. “He offered no solutions, came across as a powerless politician, and just ultimately useless to us the citizens who want help from our local government to stop one of its agencies, TSA, from fumigating us and our environment with Curfew which is scientifically documented to cause cancer.”

Viera says he’s been doing meticulous research on the subject, meeting with residents, officials with FDACS and the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection (EPC) to learn about Curfew, as well as scientists like Donley and University of Florida Professor William Crow.

“All of the research that I have been getting by people who are qualified in this area shows that, if applied pursuant to the label, it will not pose a threat,” says Viera, who adds that because of the concerns raised by his constituents, he has asked officials with the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission to do “post-application” testing in the immediate 24 hours after Curfew has been applied to the golf course.

The issue is expected to come up at Thursday’s Tampa City Council meeting.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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