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Fielding Error: Mistaken Application Wipes Out Michigan Baseball

This photo from the Battle Creek Enquirer newspaper shows the devastation wrought by the mistaken application of Roundup.

This photo from the Battle Creek Enquirer newspaper shows the devastation wrought by the mistaken application of Roundup.

This story might be funny if it weren’t inherently tragic.

Back in early spring, folks in Battle Creek, Michigan, were planning for a great season of baseball and other sports at their beloved Bailey Park Sports Complex. A new scoreboard and other improvements had been installed. A local lawn chemical contracting company was hired for the job of keeping the grass emerald green.

By the end of June, however, those fields of dreams had turned into a very real nightmare: massive swaths of dead, brown grass. Officials began looking for the usual suspects of drought or insects, but instead discovered maybe the biggest fielding error of all-time. The lawn chemical applicator thought he was applying fertilizer, but was instead applying Roundup — the wildly toxic plant killer that wipes out grass and weeds simultaneously. Here’s the local newspaper’s take on the story:
http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/article/20110807/SPORTS/108070317.

The ignorance of the applicator in the case is virtually inconceivable. Chemical fertilizer and Roundup generally don’t look — or smell — anything alike. That someone is even capable of such a high-profile faux pas makes one wonder how often less noticeable mistakes happen in the landscaping industry. Don’t think for one second, in other words, that this type of applicator error is an isolated incident.

And if you look closely at the photo, you’ll see smaller errors within the larger blunder. Stripes of green grass are visible throughout the mostly dead field, which means the applicator missed with the Roundup during his or her rush to get the job done on time. This type of thing happens, most assuredly, thousands of times each day across America as the “mow, blow and go” lawn crews hustle to meet their quota of fertilizer and weed-killing applications. Many are rewarded for their speed of application, either with a financial bonus or the opportunity to leave work early.

For those of us who rant against lawn chemical applications, these Michigan fields represent the proverbial poster children in our campaign. It’s catastrophic ignorance that will undoubtedly bring a laugh in the Power Point presentation.

Really, though, the photo is more sickening than funny. Imagine how many gallons of toxic poison were spread on this baseball field where children come to play or watch others. Imagine how many gallons of Roundup their parents still spread in the name of make their personal landscapes beautiful.

Maybe, just maybe, they’ll look at this photo and do more than laugh.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1024
  • boats47

    You are right that it is not a laughing matter, but mistakes do happen as this one is quite a big one and would warrant a dismissal notice to say the least. As far as your comment on the look and smell not being anything alike, well I would disagree with that and tell you that there is no way to differentiate between products using this method. What question should be asked is how the applicator missed the label saying in big letters Round-up (if in fact this was what was used) as that is probably one of the most recognizable names in herbicide. I would have to say your choice in words referring to Roundup “the wildly toxic plant killer” is bit over the top and more or discredits your validity to speak professionally about this particular subject. This backed by your comment on that this thing happens “tens of thousands of times per day across America as the mow, blow and go crews race to fill quotas”, really are you serious. I would like to see your statistically data on this comment of yours, I am going to go out on limb and go with that you pulled that number out of your @$$.
    My point being here is not the defense of this company who made a mistake, but the fact your article is not based on facts and solely based on your assumptions as to what happens with this aspect of the green industry. You may or may not agree with the applications of pesticides to solve certain issues within a landscape, but the reality of the matter is that there are in some cases no other alternatives. I would suggest that you instead of dogging on this unfortunate accident concentrate your efforts towards the organic companies and push them to create affordable solutions to pesticides. Those of us that are very conscious at how and what we use in regards to pesticides would welcome a viable alternative to pesticides, but with the economy in the dumps and outrageous pricing for organics it would seem to me that your time would be better spent.
    One last thought for you to think about in regards to the snide remarks with commercial applicators and how evil we all are with our Go, Go, Go attitudes. Why not focus on the happy home owner who has a 3,500 ft2 yard, buys the 10,500 ft2 bag of Scotts grub control and feels compelled to dump the whole bag on the lawn. Who is really polluting our environment with pesticides…. Commercial Applicators?

    • Nancy Franken

      Mr. Boats,
      Just saw this pop up on my feed and I’m still laughing. So you’re saying that Roundup and chemical fertilizers don’t smell any different? Really? You’re kidding, right? And Roundup isn’t wildly toxic? Have you read all the recent reports? Granted, maybe Mr. Tukey is using a bit of hyperbole to make a point about “tens of thousands of times each day” of applicator errors. But he’s probably not that far off, either. I’ve seen the crews blow through my neighborhood; they look like Daytona 500 drivers on a mission. You’re probably different than that, right?
      Nancy Franken, Potomac, Md.

  • boats47

    Nancy,
    If I put roundup, 4speed XT , prosecutor, Allectus, and let’s say Spectator (fungicide) in cup there is no way you would be able to id each chemical by smell. Now I will give you the benefit of the doubt with the fungicide I listed as they do have a distinct odor to them. The other point that should be made here is that you should not be sniffing these products to begin with as the fumes from these products can/are toxic to humans at those concentrations.
    Of course roundup is toxic, so is gasoline and diesel, but we don’t use the descriptive word “wildly” to get the point across it is dangerous, Right? To use the word “wildly” does not make sense as a way to describe the toxicity of a product and that is all I getting at with my comment. I do actually keep up with the latest reports on the green industry and pesticides; so I ask you what reports are you referring to that pertain to pesticide applicators “wildly” applying pesticides? If you could post them that would be great then we could get some validation to you and Tukey’s statements. I am sure that there are companies out there “True Green” that blow through properties and leave the granular products on walkways and driveways and really don’t care what/how they do things as long as it quick. God knows I have taken properties from them based solely on the fact they treat everyone like number, get in out as quick as possible, leave crap where it should not be. But, I also believe that the numbers Tukey has conjured up are without valid statistical data and shed a cloud on our industry.
    The problem is not with the professional applicator, but with the home owner who access to these same products we have been trained to properly use. I see it just about every week when I get a call and the home owner wanted to get rid of weeds, they buy roundup in the nice battery driven pump and because it is so easy to just pull the trigger and like magic every weed in the lawn, driveway, garden bed, patio is dead along with the grass (where the weeds were) and the shrubs are dead. This people, is where the effort should be put forth on by eliminating the access to any of these products unless you have a license.
    Lastly, Nancy you are right I am different and do not believe in racing through a property, making sure to read each label to identify the correct product I am applying at the correct rates, educating the customer on what it is we are doing and why we are, educating the customer on cultural practices that help reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizer for that matter. I like to think that my practices are the majority and not the minority, how do you prove either way? I guess you look at the enforcement side of your local environmental police and identify it that way, with that being said if you look at MA and RI enforcement (fines) compared to licensed applicators the numbers are almost non-existent. So, who is the bad guy? Really…..

    • Paul Tukey

      Boats,
      At 4:07 I entered an edit to my column, above, and modified my admittedly flippant estimate to thousands of times per day from “tens of” thousands. I now live in a cul-de-sac in Rhode Island in one of two just homes in the neighborhood that isn’t treated with chemicals. And on most days when I work from home, I frequently witness these types of applicator errors. As someone who held a pesticide applicator license for many years in the early 90s, I know the proper techniques. I know the protective equipment that is supposed to be worn and, yes, I know the varying smells. All too well.

      You and I probably agree on more than we don’t. I do believe, as you do, that homeowners are the biggest offenders. Homeowners should be required to post their properties, for example, whenever they apply a product with an EPA registration — just like professionals are supposed to. This is a crazy loophole for the chemical industry. And you and I seem to agree that quota-driven companies like Scotts Miracle-Gro and ChemLawn (TruGreen) are the worst offenders among the pros, all because some regional manager has a bonus target to hit. I assume that companies like yours try to do it by the book and keep pesticide drift, burning and other misapplications to a minimum.

      As for the reports about Roundup toxicity, simply type in the word “Roundup” into our search button at the top of our blog and you’ll find all sorts of stories linking Roundup to everything from birth defects to soil degradation. Is Roundup “wildly” toxic. That’s just a choice of words. The fact is that it’s toxic. Period. Way more so than anyone ever used to believe. And I believe it’s my job and responsibility to let the world know just how bad the product has shown to be.

      Keep the dialogue coming. It’s all good.

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