Wash Rack Blues
The greatest what? How can such an important aspect of a golf
course be a hazard? It can if you are not paying attention to a
potential time bomb of environmental concern - the wash rack
During the past several years, the USGA has committed
considerable funding to answer questions concerning golf courses
and the environment. Do the pesticides we use pose a real threat?
Are nitrates from golf courses entering potable water sources and
causing problems. While answers will be derived from this
fundamental research, the one area that has received far less
attention is the maintenance facility. More specifically, the
area where mowers are cleaned and sprayers are washed represents
one of the greatest potentials for nutrient and chemical escape
into nearby streams or water sources.
For a moment, consider the conditions of the wash area. Rarely is
there turf to capture fertilizer washed from spreaders. There is
no thatch to immobilize residues from sprayers. Often there is
nothing to catch the clippings washed from mowers. In short, if
you currently have a wash area that allows water to flow freely
into a waterway or simply "disappear" into the soil,
you are facing a potential problem. With this situation in mind,
consider the following types of wash areas.
Unfortunately, this type of wash area is among the most common.
They usually are characterized by the lack of a permanent
surface, with water and residues entering a stream, forest, lake,
or the soil. These wash areas must not be forgotten. They must be
eliminated and lost! For those who possess this type of wash
area, steps should be taken to improve the situation. These could
- Establishing multiple on-course wash sites. Nearly every
golf course has several areas that can withstand the washing of
mowers and spreaders for approximately one week. These sites
can be assigned on a rotational basis to minimize accumulation
- Minimizing sprayer cleaning. The old practice of dumping
the remains of a spray tank should long ago have gone the way
of the dinosaur Many golf courses now rinse their spray tanks
with water and apply the diluted material back onto the best
filter available - turfgrass. To expedite this operation, the
use of a single, high-volume nozzle can empty a 150-gallon
sprayer in a matter of minutes. The tank then can be rinsed
with a neutralizing agent at the wash area. Obviously, this
does not apply to certain herbicides that can cause damage to
Ah, the sweet aroma of accumulated clippings that are cleaned
from the wash area after one or two weeks of 90Â°F temperatures.
The smell can best be described as ripe! This type of wash area
usually has a permanent base of asphalt or concrete that directs
all water, clippings, and residues to a catch basin. In some
cases, they drain into a leach field, but often the end result is
water movement into waterways or into the soil. Fortunately,
various types of screens and baskets are used to capture
clippings for disposal or composting.
This wash area is preferred to the previous type; however, it
also is usually associated with chemical residues flowing with
the water. Minimizing potential problems with this type of wash
area includes establishing on-course cleaning sites and a spray
tank cleaning program with rinsates sprayed on turfgrass areas.
The previously mentioned wash racks comprise the great majority
of those found on most golf courses. Both are inherently flawed
due to their limited ability to capture various chemicals or
nutrients derived from mowers, spreaders, sprayers, and petroleum
products. Both can be significantly improved if there is access
to a sewer or if a more refined method of filtration is added.
Some golf courses are linking into sewer outlets with simple, yet
effective, filtering systems. This type of wash area is comprised
of four important components.
- A large concrete apron to collect all water, clippings, and
residues from chemicals and petroleum products.
- A catch basin or series of basins to capture all clippings.
These are cleaned on a weekly basis.
- An oil/water separator. The removal of petroleum products
is another area that should be addressed. These can be easily
installed and the filters replaced on a regular basis.
- Access to a sewer. Even if a sewer is not available,
careful cleaning of spray equipment, capturing clippings, and
filtering petroleum products will minimize potential
There is a very high probability your golf course has one of the
previously mentioned types of wash racks or a variation. In one
form or another, all have the potential to directly impact water
resources. So what can be done to address this situation? Easy
-don't let any of the water escape from the wash area.
As with other facets of the golf industry, manufacturers have
heard the call of environmental awareness. Prefabricated units
are becoming available that can capture all of the water for
reuse. The advantages of these systems include:
- No movement of water from the site.
- Complete capture of all petroleum products by an oil/water
- Complete capture of other fertilizer residues and
- Reduction of water use.
- Improved cleaning by the use of a pressure washer.
- Improved efficiency for the mechanic, chemical applicators,
and mower operators.
- A reduction of unpleasant odors.
- Total spill containment by combining a pesticide storage
building and petroleum waste building. This represents the
ultimate in minimizing or completely eliminating the escape of
chemical residues from the maintenance facility.
What does the future hold for wash areas? Don't be surprised
if this becomes the next area of regulation. To avoid a situation
of being forced to comply, consider the following steps now:
- Educate those responsible for funding.
- At the very least, install a wash pad with a catch basin or
series of basins to collect clippings.
- Use areas on the golf course to maximize turfgrasses as an
- If possible, install various filters to minimize the
outflow of petroleum products and pesticides.
- Seriously consider a self-contained system to greatly
reduce the potential for a problem.
It is true that water can be hazardous, but you can control what
happens at one of the worst outflow areas on the golf course.
Don't you be caught singing the "Wash Rack Blues."
DRIP, DRIP', DRIP? You have heard it thousands of times, at
thousands of locations. With the possible exception of the air we
breathe, no other compound in the world is more necessary or
valuable than water. Its components provide the very lifeblood to
virtually all living creatures. To golf courses, it is the single
most important part of a successful operation. It also represents
the greatest hazard!