Tony Julian, the Director of Ecologic International , offers inputs on minimising environmental hazards from turf equipment maintenance.
With over 1000 golf courses operating in Australia today, the Environmental Protection agency (EPA) has begun to closely monitor the discharge resulting from the turf equipment maintenance operations.
As a result of increased awareness and ever changing regulations relating to equipment washing and the handling, application, storage and disposal of herbicides, fertilizers and pesticides, a total review of current course maintenance practices and procedures should be made to ensure that innovative technology is applied to reduce or eliminate the potential hazards to the environment.
Relating to golf course maintenance there are three main areas of potential concern. The first is discharge related with equipment cleaning and the release of associated wash water, which is known to contain oil and grease (hydrocarbons), herbicides, fertilizers and pesticides to ground or ground water.
Over a period of time as the equipment is continually washed, these residues can accumulate to dangerous levels adversely effecting surrounding environments.
The second area of concern is proper chemical handling, storage, mixing, loading, rinsing and maintenance of related equipment. Improper chemical storage can lead to spills, both large and small, which over time can lead to property contamination resulting once again in soil contamination permeating to ground and surface waters.
Mixing and loading areas when carelessly managed can generate spilled materials, when loading chemicals for application and when cleaning or maintaining spray tanks and nozzles.
This practice, over time, can also lead to high levels of chemical concentration build-up in soils and surface waters thereby resulting in both water and property contamination.
The third area of concern is the refuelling station and associated fuel tanks. Poor fuel storage facilities can directly endanger not only surrounding environments but also staff members conducting refuelling activities.
Generally uncovered areas, fuel spills and leaks are instantly washed into soil and ground waters with associated rainfall leading again to accumulation of contaminants over time.
What steps should course superintendents take to assure they maintain their procedures to high levels of environmental responsibility and minimise or avoid any consequences of ground or property contamination?
- Establish a working Environmental Management System (EMS) and utilise associated support
- Together with qualified personnel, perform an examination of all facilities, equipment procedures and practices to identify all potential sources of toxic contamination discharges
- If possible reduce or eliminate these sources
- Where elimination of potentially toxic waste streams is not possible, take measures to contain release. Process any water of potential risk using appropriate equipment and technology to control toxic discharge.
- Using your EMS ensure that proper record keeping is maintained, staffs are trained to conduct compliant activities and emergency procedures are in place
Equipment wash down
The safe means by which equipment can be cleaned without risk of release of toxic contaminates from the wash bay is to recycle rather than to release the water used in the cleaning process.
This can be accomplished by using commercially available and proven effective water recycling systems. These systems are normally used in a zero release configuration, where all waste water is recycled and used again and again in conjunction with high volume or high pressure cleaning.
A roofed, concrete wash bay must be constructed to capture the wash water and eliminate any discharge to the ground or surface waters.
This pad is a simple design with an impervious surface with a low point of collection to recover wash water used in the cleaning operation. The water is pumped from this collection point to the recycling unit, where the grass is separated and the contaminants removed prior to re-use.
The treatment process should include a number of technologies to ensure health and safety regulations for recycled water are met. For the effective removal of oil and grease, solids, herbicides, fertilizers and pesticides, a combination of bioremediation, filtration and oxidation/disinfection should be utilised. The greater the level of treatment, the more reliable the quality of recycled water.
The processed water is then supplied to the wash bay for re-use in cleaning operations therefore drastically reducing overall water consumption. When combined with rainwater collection, recycling can liberate your course from mains supply.
Residues removed from the water will either be consumed through bioremediation or collected and concentrated in filtration media for disposal.
Chemical mix, load and rinse
In accordance with regulation, a separate concrete pad should be constructed for the mixing and loading operations in order to eliminate hazardous spills or tank rinseate from entering the recycle wash water loop or the surrounding environment.
Neat or concentrated chemical is not suitable for recycle and should therefore be contained within the mix and load pad and used in further product make-up.
A properly designed mix and load pad should be roofed to eliminate rainwater entry. The mix and load pad sump is designed to be an open/dry or blind sump allowing easy identification of spilled materials.
The pump located in the blind sump is then activated by switch, which enables the recovery of spilled material back to the spray tank. The recovered chemical can then be diluted and re-applied to the intended target area.
A drip of fuel in the same location over a long period of time will have the direct effect of a concentrated one time spill. An accumulation of fuel in the ground will permeate through the soil and into surrounding waters.
It is therefore accepted that refuelling should be conducted in an area that restricts run off or spills from refuelling activities from penetrating surrounding areas.
The refuel bay should be concrete in construction and be bunded to control the large vessel being filled. While it is difficult to match the supplying tanker for volume, at a minimum the supplying tanker should fit within the bunded area.
In order to prevent a rain event from washing spilled fuel from the bay this area should be roofed, or otherwise include a spill diversion system. An oil water separator should be used to treat run off water and can also be linked to the workshop to treat workshop wastewater.
The golf industry is no different than any other in its desire to find and utilise the most effective, safe and economical means in which to operate its equipment maintenance facilities.
The ideal safety systems will limit and even eliminate human error from the treatment or containment systems and provide the course with guaranteed compliance and peace of mind.