Forest Hills residents fight against spray of toxic pesticide

- A toxic chemical that some residents in the Forest Hills neighborhood claimed made them sick nearly a decade ago could be used again on a Tampa area golf course.

The Tampa Sports Authority plans to fumigate the Babe Zaharias Golf Course with a pesticide called “curfew” on May 9. The pesticide is injected into the soil to kill nematodes, a microscopic worm that feeds on grass roots. The parasite kills the turf in patches.

Curfew is highly toxic, and the golf course will be closed for 24-hours after the treatment. Curfew rises from the ground as a gas during that time.

Sandra Duenas, who lives approximately 47 feet from Fairway 13, is concerned about the chemical getting into the air outside her home and making her sick.

“You want your business versus the health of 1,400 households that are around the golf course?” questioned Duenas.

In 2008, the Sports Authority treated the course with Curfew, and some residents claimed it made them sick. They fought using the product in years following. This will be the first year since then that Curfew will be used to fumigate the course.

"It’s banned in the European Union. It’s not used in all of the states of the United States, except for five,” said Duenas.

The pesticide, a product of Dow AgroSciences, is accused of being a carcinogen. Fellow Forest Hills resident Renee Livingston said she did not think the Sports Authority did enough to notify neighbors that they planned to use Curfew again.

“We got this little card in the mail. It was with the junk mail, so I almost threw this out. I took a read, or I tried to, but the words were so small it was difficult to read,” said Livingston.

In a letter to residents, the Sports Authority explained that using Curfew was not the first option. They tried other products to treat the nematode issue on the course, but none have been successful. Officials said they plan to take precautions by closing the golf course for 24 hours and putting up warning signs to stay off the grass.

They assured residents that Curfew is approved by the Florida Department of Agriculture, and professionals will be handling the fumigation. It’s not enough to ease some people’s minds.

“We have kids, and we have people out with their pets after work out on the golf course, so it’s a huge concern,” offered Livingston.

Some residents are planning a protest Thursday at 11:30 a.m. at the corner of Dale Mabry Highway and West Tampa Bay Boulevard, near Raymond James Stadium, to urge the Tampa Sports Authority not to fumigate on May 9.

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