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Groups applaud Michigan House passage of key water protection rules restricting phosphorus in lawn fertilizer

Nutrient contributes to algae blooms, nuisance weed growth
Sep 23, 2010
Legislation restricting phosphorus in lawn fertilizer (HB 5368) will help keep Michigan’s lakes and streams healthy and stable, a trio of environmental groups said today after the bill’s passage through the State House of Representatives.

The Michigan Environmental Council, the Huron River Watershed Council and the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council praised the passage as a step toward cleaner water.

“These rules help protect our lakes from being strangled by mats of weeds and runaway algae blooms – both of which are fueled by the excessive phosphorus in lawn fertilizers,” said Chris Kolb, Michigan Environmental Council president.

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plants, but almost all Michigan lawns have more than enough in the soil. Excess amounts drain into storm sewers and creeks where they end up fueling excessive plant growth in lakes and ponds. That growth can create oxygen-starved “dead zones” where fish and other aquatic creatures can not survive.

If passed by the Senate, Michigan would join other Great Lakes states including Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York and Illinois in restricting phosphorus fertilizer in some applications.

“We know this approach works,” stated Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council. “Our river monitoring data from the Ann Arbor area shows total phosphorus concentrations have dropped by 30 percent, which correlates with local policies to restrict the use of phosphorus fertilizers and educate the public about the issue.”

Exceptions to the Michigan phosphorus restrictions are included in the bill for agriculture, newly established lawns, lawns that have tested low for phosphorus, golf courses and other special circumstances. It also encourages 10-foot buffer strips of vegetation to protect lakes and streams from phosphorus runoff and other pollutants.

Dr. Grenetta Thomassey of the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council said the measure will help reduce algae blooms that periodically afflict beachgoers throughout the state: “Little Traverse Bay and all of our area’s waterways will see benefit from reduced phosphorus loading,” said Thomassey. “It is a win for water quality.”

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James Clift, MEC: 517-256-0553
RELATED TOPICS: water protection
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