New VA Law Bans Sale of Lawn Fertilizer with Phosphorus
Date: February 18, 2011 05:13PM
Good news from the oldest continuous lawmaking body in the New World, the Virginia General Assembly:
Legislation that bars the Virginia sale of fertilizer containing phosphorus for use on established lawns has passed both the House of Delegates and state Senate and is on its way to the governorâ€™s desk to be signed into law.
Thatâ€™s a big deal because once the measure is enacted into law and becomes effective in 2013, it could cut up to 230,000 pounds of phosphorus pollution per year, or 22 percent of Virginiaâ€™s phosphorus reduction goal for 2017. And that could save Virginia localities millions of dollars by reducing their need to install expensive runoff treatment systems to comply with the new Chesapeake Bay pollution â€œdiet.â€
The concept is simple: avoid costly pollution cleanups later by not allowing the pollution to occur in the first place. Lawn and turf grasses are now the largest â€œcropsâ€ grown in the Chesapeake watershed and are increasing at an annual rate of 8.6 percent -- faster than the rate of population growth. But even Lawn1 though most established lawns require no phosphorus, many homeowners routinely apply fertilizer containing phosphorus to yards and lawns. Fertilizer with nitrogen is also frequently misapplied to paved surfaces, frozen ground, or grass that simply doesnâ€™t need it.
Virginia Tech scientists estimate that runoff from lawns adds millions of pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus each year to our streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay. This excess nutrient pollution over-stimulates the growth of Bay algae, clouding the water, stunting underwater grasses, and robbing the water of vital oxygen.
Once phosphorus gets into runoff, it can cost more than $30,000 per pound to remove it using engineered stormwater systems. But by banning the sale and application of fertilizer with phosphorus for routine lawn maintenance, Virginia will help solve a major Chesapeake Bay problem for little or no cost to citizens.
The new Virginia law also requires lawn service companies and other professionals to apply fertilizer only according to nutrient management standards, mandates clear labeling on fertilizer packages to inform consumers about proper application rates, and prohibits the use of de-icers that contain nitrogen.
The bipartisan legislation was sponsored by Senator Richard Stuart and Delegate Lee Ware but also had a host of co-patrons from both sides of the political aisle and the support of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), James River Association, Home Builders Association of Virginia, Virginia Association for Commercial Real Estate, and the stateâ€™s agribusiness community.
Similar bills are under consideration in the Maryland and Pennsylvania legislatures.