Rhea Mahbubani

Pesticide Concerns Wafting from Menlo Country Club

After landing on the list of biggest water wasters, an exclusive country club on the Peninsula is now taking some heat about pesticides. Neighbors say overwhelming odors are coming from the Menlo Country Club.

“At first I thought someone was painting their house late at night and then it got so strong. It was just overwhelming. It smelled like acetone. It was very strong – almost burning the eyes and nose a bit,” Tammy Doukas said.

The Redwood City resident said she first smelled pesticides coming from the course three weeks ago. She has lived across the street from Menlo Country Club for the last 13 years.

“Then yesterday morning, it started at about 6 in the morning and this time it had a sickly sweet smell,” Doukas said, concerned her three-year-old son may have been exposed to toxins.

After several complaints, Menlo Country Club told NBC Bay Area they stopped spraying an herbicide called Prograss. The course has used it twice a year for at least the last two years to kill weeds, which grew rapidly after water cut backs.

San Mateo County also got involved by sending an inspector to the course.

“Given the size of the golf course and the amount of material being put down on a warm day like yesterday you’re going to get some odor issues,” San Mateo Co. Agricultural Commissioner Fred Crowder said, explaining there was no drift despite neighbors saying they smelled pesticides up to a mile away.

The inspector found the course to have applied the pesticide safety and is in compliance with state and federal regulations. Crowder says though the chemical gives off an odor, it is more an irritant than a toxin.

“What happens is this product has a carrier in it, these hydrocarbons and they volatilize and you can’t smell them. And there isn’t a regulation concerning that,” Crowder said, explaining the golf course industry has moved towards water-based pesticides because of odor issues.

Doukas feels better knowing the country club operated safety, but she says because she has a PhD in microbiology and immunology, she remains skeptical.

“Even if it’s all within regulation, the fact that it was such a strong smell that carried so far tells you something’s wrong,” Doukas said.

Menlo Country Club leaders say they do want to be good neighbors and have halted spraying until they can find an alternative.

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