EPA: Md. Fertilizer Law To Help Bay Cleanup

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) –If taking care of your lawn means using fertilizer, Maryland has some new rules in force.

Alex DeMetrick reports a law went on the books Thursday seeking a balance between green grass and a cleaner bay.

Hire it done by professionals, or do it yourself, a new law means lawn fertilizer will start containing less nitrogen and phosphorous in Maryland.

“It’s not going to be a big learning curve because we changed the content formulation of the fertilizer that you buy at the store, so when you go to the Home Depot, those fertilizers will be formulated so that you’ll just be buying the right thing,” said Ann Swanson, Chesapeake Bay Commission.

By reducing the nutrients that go on lawns, algae in the bay will be reduced. That’s because storm runoff carries excess nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizer into streams, feeding algae blooms, which cause dead zones.

“Those who take care of their lawn the best and do it the proper way are helping the bay reduce phosphorous and nitrogen levels,” said Del. Jim Hubbard.

Farms have been the most frequent target for fertilizer reduction, but lawns take up nearly as much land.

“In Maryland, we have about 1.2 million acres of cultivated crop land, and we have about 1 million acres of managed grass,” said Buddy Hance, Md. Agriculture Secretary.

 The new law means no fertilizers near waters or streams and no applications during winter. That’s not an issue when snow is on the ground, but work could be lost during mild winters.

“It definitely could be some lost business, but there are some things we can do. There’s other things we can apply and other soil amendments we’d be able to do during that time of the year that may be able to offset that,” said Mark Schlossberg, of ProLawnPlus.

But it could be a gain for the bay.

“It means 15-20 percent of the phosphorous will be reduced, and that’s major for the Chesapeake Bay,” Swanson said.

And lawns should still stay green.

Backers of the new fertilizer bill are all for healthy lawns, which can absorb both runoff and greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

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