Golf courses: Likely full of pesticides.
Golf courses: Likely full of pesticides. COPYRIGHT USGA/JOHN MUMMERT (COURTESY OF WWW.USGA.ORG)

Nearly two decades after Seattle officials promised to use more eco-friendly methods to kill weeds on city lands, Department of Parks and Recreation employees are still spraying parks and golf courses with hazardous pesticides, the Seattle Times reports.

Between 2012 and 2016, parks department officials sprayed public lands with tons of of pesticides the city itself deemed the "most hazardous." These treatments were used "mostly to keep Seattle’s four golf courses well-groomed," but were also applied to some parks the city designated as pesticide-free, the Times found.

Parks department senior environmental analyst Barbara DeCaro told the newspaper that the office's integrated pest-management team needs "to get our act back together with this stuff." She also told the Times her team "wants to take another look and make sure the program ends up back on the radar for everybody.”

Although Seattle officials labeled glyphosate, an ingredient in Roundup weed-killer, as a "Tier 1" harmful pesticide, more than 60 percent of pesticides treatments on 732 city parks used the product in 2016, the Times found. A 2015 hazard assessment by World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer found glyphosate to be "probably carcinogenic."

The finding should have triggered a process that would bump it to Tier 1, ultimately leading the city to reduce or discontinue the chemical’s use.

Yet records show the Parks Department has continued to use Roundup and label it a Tier 2 product. According to the database maintained by the department, the use of mixes containing glyphosate actually increased from about 570 gallons in 2015 to almost 1,500 gallons in 2016 — the highest level in the past nine years.

The city's integrated pest management team is waiting for a federal Environmental Protection Agency review of glyphosate to decide whether to continue using the agent, DeCaro told the Times.

Given the city's promise to cut back on using potentially dangerous pesticides, this bit particularly mind-boggling:

Products that already have been assigned a tier are rarely reevaluated by the IPM team, DeCaro said. In response to a request for the most recently updated tier table, the Parks Department provided a document dated March 2009.

“None of us have really gone back through the entire list for a long time,” DeCaro said. “We are planning to do that, in the next couple years. It costs money for us to have that done by a third party.”

Go read the whole story, which includes detailed infographics, here.