Just Say No to Phosphorous

As the New Year rings in we will have a new law intended to reduce phosphorous runoff into our water bodies and improve water quality in New York.

As the New Year rings in we will have a new law, the “Dishwasher Detergent and Nutrient Runoff Law”, intended to reduce phosphorous runoff into our water bodies and improve water quality in New York. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the new law will:

  • Prohibit the use of phosphorus-containing lawn fertilizer unless establishing a new lawn or a soil test shows that the lawn does not have enough phosphorus.
  • Prohibit the application of lawn fertilizer on impervious surfaces and require pick up of fertilizer applied or spilled onto impervious surfaces.
  • Prohibit the application of lawn fertilizer within 20 feet of any surface water except where there is a vegetative buffer of at least 10 feet or where the fertilizer is applied by a device with a spreader guard, deflector shield, or drop spreader at least three feet from surface water.
  • Prohibit the application of lawn fertilizer between December 1st and April 1st
  • Require retailers to display phosphorus-containing fertilizers separately from non-phosphorus fertilizers and to post an educational sign where the phosphorus-containing fertilizers are displayed.
  • This provision DOES NOT impact agricultural fertilizer or fertilizer for gardens.


Check out the attached PDF’s from the DEC for complete information or visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/74885.html for answers to frequently asked questions.

We have heard a lot about nitrogen pollution wrecking havoc on marine ecosystems, but it is not the only nutrient that causes harm. Lakes and drinking water are negatively affected by excess phosphorus. Currently, New York State has over 100 sub-watersheds that are impaired by phosphorus. Phosphorous is the “limiting nutrient” in fresh water bodies and can contribute to harmful algae blooms (HAB’s), which can cause problems due to high biomass, toxin production, or both.

Some of the problems related to HAB’s that humans encounter are due to the consumption of shellfish or finfish exposed to the toxins, and include gastrointestinal or neurological problems, and even death. Wildlife is also affected by ingestion of these toxic food items. HAB’s can cause respiratory problems due to inhalation of aerosols and skin irritations due to allergy-like reactions. Chronic exposure to low toxin levels are known to cause problems in humans as well.

Blooms of algae that do not produce toxins but produce a high-biomass can cause ecological problem such as eutrophication, anoxia, community and food-web changes, and fish or other aquatic and wildlife sickness and mortality. Economic problems can result from excessive blooms due to deterioration of our inland and drinking waters.

In marine ecosystems, the loss of shellfish and finfish fisheries can be a significant byproduct of HAB’s. The “Brown Tide” of the 80’s and the subsequent disappearance of eelgrass and scallops from our waters is a local example of a harmful algae bloom in a marine ecosystem. Phosphorous can also degrade drinking water. Overall, one can see this new law as a very good thing for New Yorkers and the environment.

When you purchase fertilizer, you will see three numbers on the package. They tell you the percentage of the macronutrients, nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash. The first number tells you the percentage of nitrogen, which generally helps plant foliage to grow. The middle number is the phosphorous, which helps roots and flowers grow and develop. The third is potash, which contributes to overall plant health. Under the new law, the percentage of phosphorous must be 0.67 or below.

You could still use products purchased before Jan. 1, 2012, but the best thing you can do for the environment is to stop the use of chemical fertilizers altogether. My lawn and garden flourish without the addition of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and so can yours! Check out the photographs of my 2011 garden- all natural-no pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers!!! Aerating, composting, and using organic products are better for your lawn, garden, family, and the planet.

The first “Green Revolution” increased our global production of food through technology and the use of synthetic fertilizers. We need another revolution that will introduce the many readily available organic products as an alternative to chemicals- and undoubtedly help the planet. Planting native species is a great way to reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and reduces water consumption as well. “Bayscaping” (see attached flyer) is a popular way to have a beautifully landscaped property without causing harm to the environment.

Remember- everything we do on the land ends up in the sea-eventually. The pressure on our sensitive coastal and inland water bodies is tremendous. Please help our environment by reducing or eliminating the use of chemicals on your property. In New York- we will have a new law to help us say no to phosphorous and help the planet in the New Year.

Happy 2012!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

MARTIN DREW January 09, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Great info .. Glad I voted for you :)


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