Are Golf Courses Negatively Impacting the Environment?

Summer is just around the corner, and for many people that means the beginning of a new season hitting the links! I must admit that like many others, I can’t wait to get out on the golf course and play a round or two. That being said, after last season and entering the MEnv program, I began considering the potential environmental hazards associated with the construction and maintenance of golf courses. Are these beautiful emerald green courses really as green as they appear?

Many areas in North America are becoming more and more fragmented with new golf courses every year. In 2009, Florida alone had 1144 golf courses throughout the state, spanning a total area of just over 860 square kilometers [1]. Many of these courses are located in areas on shore lines or in sensitive ecological areas such as the Florida Everglades, as shown by this map of all the courses in 2009.

Not only are many of these courses situated in sensitive areas, but many of them use fertilizers and pesticides which are not only potentially harmful to ecosystems, but are also potential carcinogens for humans [2]. A 2006 study showed that U.S. golf courses used on average 112% of nitrogen and 187% of potash per acre used to fertilize corn crops [3]. In plain English this means more fertilizer was used per acre on U.S. golf courses than to grow corn. The result of this over use of fertilizers is the potential for eutrophication, adding an unintentional greenness to water bodies around golf courses, as is evident in the following image.

Furthermore, there is significant concern over the sustainability of the approximate use of 300,000 gallons a day of water for maintenance of U.S. golf courses, especially in areas of California which have sunken by more than a foot in 9 years due to aquifer demand [4]. While these concerns are well documented, there is a lack of regulation associated with golf courses. In Canada, many pesticides are banned for cosmetic use on properties, but golf courses have been exempt from the regulations [5]. It seems about time that governments do a better job to recognize the environmental concerns related to golf courses, and consider thresholds for required EIA of golf courses. British Columbia does currently have “golf resorts” built into its EIA legislation, stating that the resort must occupy an area greater than 200 hectares and possess more than 600 commercial bed units [6]. Considering an average 18 hole golf course requires 120-200 acres, the equivalent of about 50 to 80 hectares, not many new courses will require environmental impact assessments [7].

However, many golf course owners have realized the need to promote good environmental management of their courses. Alan Morton, owner of Golf Griffon Des Sources in Mirabel, Quebec, has implemented woodland corridors throughout his course to reduce habitat fragmentation as well as the use of liquid compost treatment to reduce the need for pesticides [5]. Even the great Nick Faldo, who now designs golf courses after a successful PGA career, promotes the notion that “as the world’s natural landscapes become more endangered, our most fundamental job as course designers is to create beautiful playing venues that also preserve and protect the environment” [8]. Golf courses may have the potential to cause environmental degradation, but the golf community also has an opportunity to be a leader in terms of sustainable development. As more courses are inevitably created, they should be designed in an environmentally friendly manner, so that we can keep enjoying the sport for years to come.

References

[1] Florida Geographic Data Library. (2009). Florida Golf Courses in 2009. Retrieved March 25th 2015, from http://www.fgdl.org/metadata/fgdc_html/par_golf_09.fgdc.htm

[2] Knopper, L., & Lean, D. (2004). Carcinogenic And Genotoxic Potential Of Turf Pesticides Commonly Used On Golf Courses. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, 7(4), 267-279.

[3] Environmental Institute for Golf (2006). Golf Course Environmental Profile. Retrieved March 26th 2015, from http://www.eifg.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/golf-course-environmental-profile-nutrient-report.pdf

[4] Barton, J. (2008). How Green if Golf? Retrieved March 26th 2015, from http://www.golfdigest.com/images/magazine/2008/05/gd200805golfenvironment.pdf

[5] Oosthoek, S., (2011). How Golf Courses Are Getting Greener. Retrieved March 26th 2015, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/top-employers/how-golf-courses-are-getting-greener/article577697/

[6] British Columbia Environmental Assessment Act Reviewable Projects Regulation(2012) Retrieved March 26th 2015, from http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/370_2002

[7] American Society of Golf Architects. (n.d.) FAQ: How much land do I need to build a golf course? Retrieved March 27th 2015, from http://www.asgca.org/frequently-asked-questions/174

[8] Nick Faldo Design. (n.d.). Sustainability. Retrieved March 27th 2015, from http://nickfaldodesign.com/sustainability

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Pristine Antarctica: Threatened by science station sewage

by Sara Munčs

Antarctica has long been designated as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science”[1]. The Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959, and its’ Protocol on Environmental Protection from 1991, place strict regulations on the different types of activities that can be conducted in the Antarctic [1, 2]. All activities related to mineral resources are prohibited and directives are given on practice related to flora and fauna, marine pollution and protected areas [1]. Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) have to be conducted for all activities in order to judge how they may affect the Antarctic environment and its scientific value [3]. One would think that this treaty has covered all bases in order to keep Antarctica the pristine wilderness that it is. However, recent research has brought to light that the very stations aiming to protect the Antarctic may be polluting it due to their waste management strategies [4].

McMurdo Research Station, Photograph by Norbert Wu, Science Faction/ Corbis , Retrieved from

McMurdo Research Station, Photograph by Norbert Wu, Science Faction/ Corbis [4]

Antarctica is home to about 4000 people occupying 82 research bases in the austral summer months and about 1000 people in the winter [5,6]. The Protocol on Environmental Protection accounts for waste management strategies, but while the regulations for chemical waste as well as disposal of garbage and recycling are quite strict, the standards for sewage are much lower [7]. Water treatment is mandatory for stations of 30 people or more but maceration (breaking up all solid components into small pieces) is the only treatment legally required [6, 7]. Only 37% of the permanent stations and 69% of the summer stations actually treat their waste water [6]. The largest station, the United States’ McMurdo station, has only had maceration treatment facilities since 2003 [5, 8].
The potential for pollution from sewage disposal has been recognized for a number of years. Studies have been conducted at sewage discharge points to determine the extent of damage done to the biodiverse sea floor. The following video briefly explains the research conducted by Kathy Conlan from the Canadian Museum of Nature:

The pollutants released from untreated waste water can be organic, such as human pathogens and other microorganisms [6], but can also be persistent toxic chemicals like polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE), a flame retardant that has been detected in Antarctic environments [5]. One of the big problems in both cases is that the cold Antarctic waters allow the pollutants to remain viable for longer periods of time than in warmer temperatures [4,5,6]. Most recently a new type of flame retardant, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), has been discovered in the sewage sludge released from McMurdo station, in the surrounding environment, and even in the tissue of Adélie penguins [4]. This demonstrates that the pollutants released from the waste water are bioaccumulating up the food chain [4].

Adélie Penguin, Michelle Newnan, National Geographic Your Shot

Adélie Penguin, Michelle Newnan, National Geographic Your Shot [4]

It is clear that regulations regarding the treatment of waste water need to be tightened, however EA could also have a role to play. A cumulative impacts assessment could be of great use to determine the extent of environmental degradation and the main sources of this degradation, so that waste management strategies can be rectified before one of the last pristine environments on the planet is ruined.

REFERENCES

[1] Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty (2011) “The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty” Retrieved from <http://www.ats.aq/e/ep.htm > on March 15th, 2014.
[2] Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty (2011) “The Antarctic Treaty” Retrieved from <http://www.ats.aq/e/ats.htm >  on March 15th, 2014.
[3] Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty (2011) “Environmental Impact Assessment” Retrieved from <http://www.ats.aq/e/ep_eia.htm> on March 15th, 2014.
[4] Holland, J.S. (March 4th, 2014) “Antarctic Research Bases Spew Toxic Wastes Into Environment” for National Geographic. Retrieved from <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140304-antarctica-research-toxic-adelie-penguins-mcmurdo-station-science/> on March 15th, 2014.
[5] Hale R.C. et al. (2008) “Antarctic Research Bases: Local Sources of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether (PBDE) Flame Retardants” Environmental Science and Technology, 42: 1452–1457.
[6] Gröndahl, F., J. Sidenmark & Thomsen A. (2009) Polar Research, 28: 298–306.
[7] Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. (1991) “Annex III: Waste Disposal and Waste Management” Retrieved from <http://www.ats.aq/documents/recatt/Att010_e.pdf> on March 15th, 2014.
[8] NASA Quest. “Environmental Protection in the Antarctic” Retrieved from <http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/antarctica/background/NSF/facts/fact08.html> on March 15th, 2014.

RETHINKING USED TIRES: THE UPS AND DOWNS

Posted By: Brian Aboh

Yong Jo Ji Recycled Tire Sculpture

Yong Jo Ji Recycled Tire Sculpture

Source: Yonghoji.com

Tires constitute a serious environmental concern on several fronts as a result of their chemical components. Toxins released from tire decomposition, incineration or accidental fires can pollute the water, air and soil. Forty two states in the United States has succeeded in regulating tire disposal to some extent, the remaining eight states have no restrictions on what you must do to discard tires [6]. Though laws are in place, illegal dumping persists and contributing negative environmental impacts [6]. According to the U.S. EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency), there are at least 275 million scrap tires in stockpiles in the US alone and in 2003, approximately 290 million scrap tires were generated [8]. The figures are staggering, even the state and local governments have noted the costs because of the landfill space required [8].

The problems and risk of used tires

Toxic effects

The EPA has categorized tires as municipal solid wastes rather than solid wastes which when thrown away instead of recycled can be detrimental to the environment. This occurs when the chemicals they contain are released into the environment – the breakdown of tires discharges hazardous waste [6]. Not only do tires contain oils that contaminate the soil, they also contain heavy metals, such as lead, that are persistent in the environment and accumulate over time [6].

Fire Risk

Improperly discarded tires are a major concern due to their increased fire risk. When heated, they become a fuel source. Fifty percent of recycled tires are used in fuel generation [7]. Fires fueled by tires are difficult to control and extinguish. Tire smokes which contain toxic chemicals and particulate matter can pose serious health consequences detrimental to existing respiratory conditions [7].

Pest Threat

Discarded tires also pose another environmental risk by collecting water which becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes and pests leading to an increased risk of vector-borne diseases like encephalitis [3]. The U.S Centers for Disease and Control has suggested removing unwanted tires from your properties because of possible health impacts [3].

Creative solutions to the used tire problem

Building with Tires for Energy Efficiency

Tires are quite attractive as building materials because of their strength and durability. Not only do they require minimal processing techniques, forward-thinking designers and builders have utilized tires to accomplish a number of goals for greener more resilient buildings [4]. Used tires are cost effective and in some cases free, and are interesting option for home building initiatives. Michael Reynold’s Earthship concept is a good example of using old tires as bricks which are filled with earth that is pounded to create strength and stability for engineering projects. Though it is labor-intensive the result has much more thermal mass  than ordinary construction with a much higher insulating factor [4].

Michael Reynold’s Simple Model Earthship.

Source: Earthship.com

Tires and Disaster Resistance

Tires are also good for disaster-resistant buildings especially for earthquakes because of their flexible nature. The Indonesian aid Foundation Group has employed the use of old tires  for house foundations to provide a “buffer zone” between the shaking earth and the house. The Colorado State University also tested this design on a seismic shake plate on a building initiative which was able to resist progressively stronger quaking [2].

Tire Sculptures

Scrap tires can also serve as a wonderful material for creating wonderful artworks. Yong Ho Ji, a Korean artist has succeeded in transforming scrap tires into recycled masterpieces. Some of his works are represented in the form of animals or mythical creatures like dragons, he also produces magnificent mutants combining two different mutants and animal/human hybrids all carved with scrap tires [1]. His works are so amazing that it can be located at the international Contemporary Art Foundation in the West Collection inside the Seoul Museum of Art [1].

Jewelry, Belts, Footwear and More as By- Products of Used Tires

The uses of old tires are enormous. These include: belts made out of bicycle tires; recycled tire roofs; picture frames; playground materials; book bags; kitchen sinks and upholstery [5]. In Ethiopia, an indigenous company by the name Solerebels Footwear gathers and sorts used tires and hand-cuts them into soles for the production of long-lasting and comfortable shoes. This company not only pays fair wages to its employees but by using locally gathered materials it also promotes a better environment and helps in transforming the economy of Ethiopia [5].  Conclusively, when tires are disposed accordingly in respect to recycling mandate and landfill prohibitions, recycled tires can be advantageous for building homes, playgrounds, road surfaces, erosion control installations to mulch for our gardens [8].

References:

[1] Adrian. 2012. The Art of Yong Ho Ji – Recycled Tire Sculptures. Designmodo Accessed th, 2014> http://designmodo.com/yong-ho-ji/
[2] Cararo. A.  2007. Engineering Professor Researching Used Tires as Filler in Roadbeds, Foundations to Combat Expansive Soils. Colorado State University.Accessed <Jan. 19th, 2014> http://www.news.colostate.edu/Release/879
[3] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2013. West Nile Virus – Questions and Answers. Accessed <Jan. 19th, 2014> http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/faq/
[4] Earthship Biotecture. 2009. Tire building Code. Accessed <Jan. 19th, 2014> http://earthship.com/tire-building-code
[5] SoulRebels. 2013. Trading Towards Hope and Development. Accessed <Jan. 19th, 2014> http://www.solerebels.com/
[6] United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2012. Wastes – Resource Conservation – Common Wastes and Materials- Scrap Tires. Accessed <Jan. 19th, 2014> http://www.epa.gov/solidwaste/conserve/materials/tires/index.htm
[7] United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2008.  Municipal Solid Waste in the United States- 2007 Facts and Figures. Accessed <Jan. 19th, 2014> http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw07-rpt.pdf
[8] United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2013. Particulate Matter (PM) Research. Accessed <Jan. 19th, 2014>  http://www.epa.gov/airscience/air-particulatematter.htm

Will the White Whales of St. Lawrence survive?

The beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas), also known as white whale for their distinct all-white colour, is an Arctic and sub-Arctic marine mammal. It possesses a distinctive organ at the front of its head called melon, which is used for echolocation. The size of a beluga whale is between that of a dolphin’s and a true whale’s (Wikipedia).

beluga-whale_458_600x450

Image Source: National Geographic (http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/beluga-whale/)

Historically, the beluga whale had a population size of about 10,000 individuals (during the 1800s) in the St. Lawrence Estuary (SLE) but currently (2003) about 1100 individuals live there (DFO, 2005).

The prime cause of their disappearance, hunting, was banned in 1979. Naturally, the population would have been expected to increase since then, but no clear sign of recovery is seen (Lebeuf et al., 2007).

Martineau et al. (2002) reported that they studied 129 beluga carcasses out of 263 reported stranded between 1983 and 1999. They found 27% of the adult belugas had cancer. The annual rate of all cancer types was much higher than any other population of cetaceans and was similar to that of humans.

High concentration of PAH(polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) were found in the Saguenay River sediments (500-4500 ppb of total PAH); which is a part of SLE beluga habitat. These compounds originate mainly from upstream aluminum smelters. The invertebrates living in the bottom sediment accumulate PAHs and they form a significant amount of SEL beluga diet.

High rates of cancer among workers in aluminum plants have been related to PAHs epidemiologically. Martineau et al. (2002) suggested from these studies that PAHs are related to high rate of cancer in SLE belugas.

Metcalfe et al. (1999) showed that total PCB (Polychlorinated biphenyl), DDT (dichlorodiphenyl-trichloroethane) and Chlordane concentrations in SLE beluga tissues were higher compared to the Canadian Arctic belugas; which reflects the input of these chemicals into the St. Lawrence river.

A temporal trend analysis of persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals on these whales showed that concentration of most of the PBTs in SLE beluga have decreased between 1987 and 2002; while no increasing trends were observed either (Lebeuf et al., 2007).

Yet, concentration of the toxic chemicals in beluga tissues are not decreasing quickly and new persistent contaminants are being introduced to the aquatic ecosystem. So, these contaminants accumulate in juveniles and adults through the food and in calves through their mothers. There are other threats to the beluga population too, which include marine traffic, anthropogenic noise, reduced fish population, habitat destruction etc. (DFO, 2012)

Recent news report says that since 2008, there has been an increase in the mortality rate of beluga whale calves. The report quoted Robert Michaud, scientific director of the Groupe de recherche et d’éducation sur les mammifères marins (GREMM), who informed that since 2005, along with increasing mortality rate of calves, a lot of female belugas are dying during, before or after giving birth. He also informed that, there has been no surveys since 2009 (CBC News, 2013).

852-dead-beluga-8col

Image Source: CBC News, 2013.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada proposed long-term mitigation measures to restore the beluga whale population to 70% of its historical size (7070 individuals), but with current growth rate of 1% it will take until 2100 to reach that goal (DFO, 2012).

strategy

Fig: The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park and the two proposed marine protected areas (MPAs), the proposed Manicouagan marine protected area and the proposed St. Lawrence Estuary Marine Protected Area. Inset: the location of the area in Quebec. (Source: DFO, 2012).

There is lack of study that correlates organic chemicals in beluga tissues to the source of these chemicals. Proper monitoring and management plan for industrial development activities needs to be adopted. Cumulative effects assessment of the St. Lawrence River watershed might help us to identify and minimize the negative impacts of the toxic chemicals on the St. Lawrence River ecosystem.

The question comes to mind, who to blame? Are the industries only responsible for the pollution?

Leave your word below.

References:

Beluga whale. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 08, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Beluga_whale&oldid=576379085

CBC News. 2013, August 20. Beluga deaths in St. Lawrence worry whale researchers. Retrieved October 8, 2013, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/beluga-deaths-in-st-lawrence-worry-whale-researchers-1.1346616.

DFO. 2005. Recovery potential assessment of Cumberland sound, Ungava Bay, Eastern Hudson Bay and St. Lawrence beluga populations (Delphinapterus leucas). DFO Can Sci Advis Sec Sci Advis Rep 2005/036, 14 pp. Available at http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/csas/Csas/status/2005/SAR-AS2005_036_e.pdf; 2006.

DFO. 2012. Recovery Strategy for the beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) St. Lawrence Estuary population in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. 88 pp + X pp. Available at http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/virtual_sara/files/plans/rs_st_laur_beluga_0312_e.pdf

Lebeuf, M., M. Noël, S. Trottier and L. Measures. 2007. “Temporal trends (1987-2002) of persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals in beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) from the St. Lawrence Estuary, Canada.” Science of the Total Environment 383: 216-231.

Martineau, Daniel, Karin Lemberger, André Dallaire, Philippe Labelle, Thomas P. Lipscomb, Pascal Michel and Igor Mikaelian. 2002. “Cancer in Wildlife, a Case Study: Beluga from the St. Lawrence Estuary, Québec, Canada.” Environmental Health Perspectives 110: 285-292.

Metcalfe, C.,  T. Metcalfe, S. Ray, G. Paterson and B. Koeniga. 1999. “Polychlorinated biphenyls and organochlorine compounds in brain, liver and muscle of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) from the Arctic and St. Lawrence estuary.” Marine Environmental Research 47: 1-15.