Lawn Fertilizer Bill Will Reduce Bay Pollution, Save Money

Press Release
February 18, 2011

Lawn Fertilizer Bill Will Reduce Bay Pollution, Save Money

(RICHMOND, VA)���Bipartisan legislation that will bar the Virginia sale of fertilizer containing phosphorus for use on established lawns has passed the House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia and is headed to the governor's desk for his signature.

The legislation, sponsored by Senator Richard Stuart (R-28th) and Delegate Lee Ware (R-65th) with co-patrons senators Ralph S. Northam (D-6th), Mary Margaret Whipple (D-31st), Dave W. Marsden (D- 37th), Ryan McDougle (R-4th), and Jeffrey L. McWaters (R-8th), was supported by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), James River Association, Home Builders Association of Virginia, and Virginia Association for Commercial Real Estate. The measure, supported by agribusiness and identical to a bill introduced by Delegate Edward T. Scott (R-30th), also will require lawn service companies and other professionals to apply fertilizer according to nutrient management standards.

Once effective in 2013, the law could reduce phosphorus pollution running off into the Chesapeake Bay from Virginia by at least 230,000 pounds per year, or 22 percent of Virginia's phosphorus reduction goal by 2017. That could save localities millions of dollars by reducing their need to install expensive stormwater runoff treatment systems. 

"Phosphorus and nitrogen are major Chesapeake Bay pollutants," said Senator Stuart. "This legislation will help reduce the runoff of these chemicals from residential lawns and do so with little or no cost to citizens across the state. That's a win for the Bay and for taxpayers."

"CBF applauds Senator Stuart and Delegate Ware for their leadership on this important legislation, as well as legislators on both sides of the aisle for their support," said Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Virginia Executive Director Ann F. Jennings. "And we commend the General Assembly for taking immediate steps to begin implementing Virginia's Chesapeake Bay watershed implementation plan to reduce pollution."

Lawn and turf grass are now the largest "crops" grown in the Chesapeake watershed and are increasing at an annual rate of 8.6 percent, or faster than the rate of population growth. Even though most established lawns require no phosphorus, many homeowners routinely apply fertilizer containing phosphorus to yards and lawns. Fertilizer with nitrogen is also frequently applied inappropriately, such as to paved surfaces, frozen ground, or grass that doesn't need it.

The legislation will also require clear labeling on home fertilizer sold in Virginia. The labels will advise consumers on how to use the product properly, achieve desired results, and avoid pollution of nearby waterways. Further, the measure prohibits the use of de-icers containing nitrogen.

Once the legislation is adopted and becomes law, Virginia will join eight other states restricting the use or sale of phosphorus in fertilizers. The Maryland and Pennsylvania legislatures are considering similar legislation.

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