Maintaining water quality is a high public priority, to ensure a safe and abundant public drinking water supply as well as to protect fish and wildlife resources that use State waters and wetlands as part of their habitat. A number of federal and state regulations that apply to both drinking water and surface water quality for the protection of aquatic life are relevant to golf course operations, depending upon the proximity to drinking water sources, and surface waters, and depth to groundwater. These include regulations related to stormwater; wetlands; pesticides and pesticide usage; fertilizers; hazardous materials; and water withdrawal. Maintenance facilities are likely to be subject to a number of local requirements, which may vary by county or town.
Drinking Water Quality Regulations
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), passed in 1974, is the main federal law that ensures the quality of Americans’ drinking water. The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) established standards for drinking water quality that are more stringent than EPA standards and must be complied with in the state. Read more
Under the SDWA, EPA sets standards for drinking water quality and oversees the states, localities, and water suppliers who implement those standards. SDWA authorizes EPA to set national health-based standards for drinking water, known as the National Drinking Water Regulations, to protect against both naturally occurring and manufactured contaminants. These regulations specify maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for contaminants, which include nitrates, nitrites, and some pesticide constituents. EPA, individual states, and water systems are compelled to work together to ensure that these standards are met.
For more information, see:
- Surface Drinking Water Act: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/index.cfm
- National Drinking Water Regulations: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/index.cfm
- Drinking water contaminants MCLs: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/index.cfm#List
- NYSDOH drinking water protection program: http://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/
Stormwater is water that originates in some form of precipitation, as either rainfall or snowmelt. Because this water travels along or through the earth’s surface, it can collect and carry potential contaminants that could compromise surface waters or groundwater. Therefore, regulations exist that govern the quality of water discharged from runoff sources. NYSDEC has established limits for some chemicals in stormwater, including nitrites, nitrates, and pesticides. NYSDEC has also established a limit for phosphorus levels in stormwater of 0.1 mg per liter. Read more
Individual or general permits for stormwater discharges may be required for activities associated with stormwater discharges, including construction activities. Construction activities disturbing one or more acres of soil must be authorized under the General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activities. Permittees are required to develop a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) to prevent discharges of construction-related pollutants to surface waters.The New York State Stormwater Management Design Manual was reissued in 2010 for more information.
The concentration of activities in and around maintenance facilities may increase the levels of chemical residues susceptible to runoff from heavy precipitation. Stormwater collection areas may need to be established to capture runoff in accordance with NYSDEC specifications.
For more information see:
Surface Water Quality Regulations
The goal of all surface water quality protection programs is to ensure that all waters of the State meet water quality standards. The Federal Clean Water Act required states to classify all of the waters of the State according to their best uses and to adopt water quality standards in order to protect those best uses. NYSDEC uses the best uses and standards so established to regulate surface waters , land use associated with tidal and freshwater wetlands, and dams. Specifically, NYSDEC is charged with identifying impaired surface water bodies (i.e., waters not meeting water quality standards), recommending mitigation, and establishing guidelines for enhanced protection through a variety of regulatory programs. Read more
For surface waters in New York not meeting the established State water quality standards, NYSDEC establishes total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for the pollutant of concern causing the impairment (such as nitrogen, phosphorus, or sediments). NYSDEC has completed TMDLs for many water bodies in New York State, including Long Island Sound, Lake Champlain, waters of the Croton River watershed, and a number of lake watersheds. EPA may also require localities to develop Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMPs) for activities in those impaired watersheds. Currently, CNMPs are focused on agricultural land use specifically related to the New York City Watershed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). Note that state, federal, and local water quality regulations can change—remain informed on local, regional, and national policies and regulations.
For more information, see:
Groundwater Quality Regulations
NYSDEC regulates groundwater, including setting groundwater quality and effluent standards. For more information, see NYSDEC Division of Water Regulations: http://www.dec.ny.gov/regs/2485.html.
Article 24 of New York Environmental Conservation Law requires permits to conduct activities within a wetland and an adjacent area bordering the wetland. Physical disturbance, as well as applications of chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, even fertilizer), requires an Article 24 permit if the action is done in a state-regulated wetland or within the regulated adjacent area (typically 100 feet from wetland boundary).
In New York, the Dishwater Detergent and Nutrient Runoff Law became effective in January 2012. Read more
This law prohibits the use of phosphorus-containing fertilizers with a phosphate (P2O5) content greater than 0.67%, unless:
- soil tests show a phosphorus deficiency
- the fertilizer is being used to establish new seeded or sodded turf
- the fertilizer being used is an organic compost
- the fertilizer is derived from litter
The law prohibits application of fertilizer onto impervious surfaces. Fertilizer should not be applied within 20 feet of any surface water, modified to 10 feet if the buffer has vegetative cover. An exception to the buffer requirement exists if the spreader guard, deflector shield or drop spreader is at least three feet from surface water. Finally, the law prohibits the application of fertilizers on lawns and non-agricultural turf between December 1 and April 1.
In addition to state regulations, turf managers should review their county and town ordinances to determine if stricter restrictions apply to phosphorus fertilizer use and application. For example, a few counties have extended the phosphorus-containing fertilizer restriction from November 1 or November 15 to April 1. Currently, local laws enacted to reduce phosphorus include ones adopted in Westchester, Nassau, Suffolk and Chautauqua counties and the Village of Greenwood Lake.
In addition to restrictions on the use of phosphorus-containing fertilizers, CNMPs for those NY counties required to submit plans for impaired waters may restrict the use of nitrogenous fertilizers. Turf managers should consult with the local County Cooperative Extension Office, SWCD Office, or County Water Authority to learn if any restrictions apply.
For more information, see:
- NYSDEC Dishwasher Detergent and Nutrient Runoff Law web page: http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/67239.html
- Minnesota legislation: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=18C
- Westchester County local regulation: http://consumer.westchestergov.com/images/stories/pdfs/2008LawnFertilizerLaw.pdf
- Nassau County local regulation: https://www.nassaucountyny.gov/DocumentCenter/View/3178
- Suffolk County local regulation: http://legis.suffolkcountyny.gov/resos2007/i2117-07.htm
- Chautauqua County local regulation: http://www.planningchautauqua.com/?q=watershed/Phosphorus_Law.htm
The New York State Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), Article 33, Part 325, establishes statutory authority to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to regulate pesticides and pesticide use. Read more
All businesses must register with the NYSDEC to commercially apply pesticides.
Certified Applicators and Technicians
The law requires commercial applicators and technicians applying pesticides to golf course turf to be certified in categories 3A (ornamentals, shade trees, and turf) or 3B (turf only). Commercial applicators must meet requirements in continuing education credits. Special supervisory restrictions apply to technicians and apprentices.
When chemical controls are to be used, only pesticides registered for use in New York State are permitted. In addition to a listing by NYSDEC of registered pesticides, Cornell’s pesticide Product Ingredient Manufacturer System (PIMS) lists all registered pesticides searchable by EPA registration number, common name, or active ingredient.
Pesticide Reporting Law
Applicators are required to file an annual report by February 1 each year summarizing their pesticide applications from the previous calendar year. These applicator reports are compiled each year in a summary report on sales and use around the state. NYSDEC is also monitoring water quality reports to assess pesticide levels in high-risk watersheds, aquifers, and wells across the state.
The ECL was amended to include the Neighbor Notification Law requiring a 48-hour notice to adjoining property owners prior to pesticide application. However, the requirement is only effective for counties that adopt the requirements into local ordinances; golf courses and sod farms are specifically exempted. Registered businesses should check with county officials or regional NYSDEC offices to see if specific local requirements apply.
Off-property transport of pesticides must comply with New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) regulations. Regulations require that the driver be trained for hazardous material transport. Drivers are required to carry the pesticide label and SDS sheet, have sufficient knowledge to handle any spills, and communicate with emergency responders in case of spills. Pesticides transported off the property or stored in a sprayer tank must be labeled with basic pesticide information as required under the Environmental Conservation Law.
For more information on pesticide regulations and guidelines, see:
- NY Pesticide Business Registration: www.dec.ny.gov/permits/209.html
- Pesticides Registered in NY: www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/27354.html
- NY State Pesticide PIMS: pims.psur.cornell.edu/
- NY Pesticide Reporting Law: www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/27506.html
- NYSDEC Pesticide Storage Guidelines: http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/8871.html
- NYSDEC Policies on Backflow Prevention Devices: www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/23471.html
- NYSDEC Waste Transporter Permit Program: www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8483.html
- Regulated Hazardous Wastes in NY: http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8486.html
- New York State Solid Waste Management http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8498.html
- SPDES General Pesticide Permits: http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/70489.html
- Clean Sweep NY: www.cleansweepny.org
Aquatic Pesticide Applications
The application of any pesticide to water, such as an aquatic herbicide used to control vegetation in golf course ponds, or mosquito or other insect control applied to water, must be covered under a SPDES General Pesticide Permit. For more information, see: http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/70489.html.
Every golf course has a central area for the maintenance and storage of equipment and supplies. These areas can potentially become point sources of pollution because of unintended releases of chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizers, or fuel during storage or handling of these materials. Containment measures in these areas can easily prevent chemicals from becoming point sources of pollution. Read more
Local building inspectors should be consulted during planning for new facilities to outline the permitting process and local requirements. Also, consider meeting with a representative from a NYSDEC regional office and the local fire marshal. The NYSDEC requests a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for new construction, which is administered by local governments. NYSDEC comments on SEQR as well as other interested and involved agencies.
The NYSDEC currently offers guidelines for chemical storage. While these are only guidelines, regulations are being drafted. Guidelines are as follows:
- Storage facilities should be structurally separate from “residential, office and general work areas; livestock quarters, food, feed or seed storage and water supply sources”. Storage should be in separate buildings and situated to be at least 50 ft away from residential or farm property. Fencing is currently not stipulated but could be considered as an added precaution.
- Storage areas should have a raised berm on all sides and an impervious surface for containment.
- Facilities should be equipped with “spill containment material” and fire extinguishers. Suggested spill containment material includes absorbent spill containment pads, sweeping compound, brushes or brooms, a dust pan, shovel and a disposal container or bag.
- Protective equipment should be available near but not within the storage area.
- The storage facility should be locked and properly posted with warnings.
- Annual updates should be provided to the local fire department and include a “Fire and Spill Response Plan”. Additional precautions might include provisions of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes.
- Chemicals should be segregated by function (e.g. fungicide, insecticide, and herbicide) and hazard level. All flammable and “incompatible” materials should be stored separately.
- Mixing areas should be similarly bermed with impervious surfaces.
- Indoor mixing areas should be properly vented.
- Bulk containers, construed to be equal to or greater than 55 gallons, should be locked and drains should be used to collect any spills into a containment area. The spill containment system should have a capacity equal to or greater than 25% of the volume of pesticides stored.
- A water supply and wash station are required at or adjacent to the facility for emergencies.
- A suitable first aid kit for pesticide poisoning should be nearby.
- Forced air vent systems capable of exchanging the air volume 3 to 4 times per hour should be considered along with temperature control for keeping temperatures under 95°F and above freezing.
- Local fire departments should be made aware of the pesticides and fertilizers stored to prepare in event of a fire at the storage facility.
Very old or inadequate storage areas may or may not be out of compliance, but consider planning for improvements to implement these NYSDEC guidelines over time.
Mixing and Loading
NYSDEC Policy DSHM-PES-05-03, the Department’s pesticide storage guidance, provides guidance on mixing and loading of pesticides. NYSDEC regulations require the use of Backflow Prevention Devices (BPD) when public water is used with pesticide application equipment.
Mix and load area incorporating a bermed design and pitched floor that drains to a receiving tank. Source: Bob Alonzi.
Rinse Water Disposal
Currently no federal, state, or county regulations exist for the design and operation of wash stations. However, NYS guidelines recommend wash areas to be contained and bermed, with impervious surfaces.
Some of the wastes generated in maintenance facilities must be handled as hazardous wastes, as described below.
For more information, see:
In New York State, the hazardous waste regulations are found in 6 NYCRR Parts 370 through 374-3 and 376. Caution should be exercised when storing fuels or other hazardous material including lubricants, cleaners, flammable paints, and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Incompatible and flammable materials should be stored separately in approved storage cabinets. Read more
Fuel and Fuel Oil Storage
NYS has regulations for above and below ground storage of fuel and fuel oil in Part 613 of the ECL. Every facility manager should review this regulation carefully. The regulations require daily inspection logs be kept and annual inspections. Counties and towns may also have their own fuel storage regulations.
Golf courses may generate a number of different types of wastes. Examples of wastes that may be generated at a golf facility include, but are not limited to, the following:
- parts wash solvents
- waste gasoline
- cleaning materials
- waste oil
- lead-acid batteries
- aerosol cans
- spent fluorescent bulbs
- unusable pesticides and inner bag liners
- unusable herbicides and inner bag liners
A waste is a hazardous waste if it exhibits a specific characteristic (ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, toxicity) or if it is included in any of the four specifically listed categories of hazardous waste. Many waste fluorescent lamps are hazardous wastes due to their mercury content. Other examples of lamps that, when spent, are commonly classified as hazardous waste include: high-intensity discharge (HID), neon, mercury vapor, high pressure sodium, and metal halide lamps.
USEPA issued the Universal Waste Rule in 1995 to streamline compliance with hazardous waste regulations. This rule is designed to reduce the amount of hazardous waste in the municipal solid waste stream, to encourage the recycling and proper disposal of some common hazardous wastes and to reduce the regulatory burden on generators. Universal wastes include such items as hazardous batteries, hazardous mercury-containing thermostats, certain pesticides, and hazardous lamps. Although handlers of universal wastes must meet less stringent standards for storing, transporting, and collecting wastes, the wastes must comply with full hazardous waste requirements for final recycling, treatment, or disposal. Therefore, every golf club is responsible (and liable) for the safe handling of the product and proper waste disposal by a reputable waste removal service. These services should be certified and bonded for transporting your waste to similarly accredited processing centers.
For more information, see:
Water Withdrawal Reporting
New York State requires annual water usage reports for any system capable of withdrawing more than 100,000 gallons groundwater or surface water per day. In accordance with the recently enacted water quality standard for flow, any withdrawal must also ensure that the existing best use of the waterbody from which the water is taken, such as protection of aquatic life, is not impaired.
Reports for the prior year are due on March 31 of each year. Recycled water is exempted from this reporting requirement. For more information on water withdrawal regulations and reporting in New York, see: http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/55509.html.