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County Executive's Office

County Exec. Falk Seeks County-Wide Phase-Out of Phosphorus-Containing Lawn Fertilizers to Improve Lake Water Quality

July 18, 2003
Sharyn Wisniewski (608) 267-8823
County Executive

Falk also signs Resolution authored by Supervisor Andy Olsen, that bans use of phosphorus-containing fertilizers on county-owned lands.
Falk at press conference.  Click to enlarge
County Executive Falk announces proposal to phase-out phosphorus from lawn fertilizers in Dane County. At left in the photo is County Board Supervisor Andy Olsen, and at far right is County Board Supervisor Bill Graf. Supervisors John Hendrick and Don Eggert were also at the press conference. You may want to enlarge the image.
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today announced that she will seek County Board approval for a new resolution to phase out the sale and / or use of phosphorus-containing lawn fertilizers to help improve lake water quality. “We can have green lawns without causing green lakes,” said Falk. “Dane County’s lakes are priceless. They are a big part of what makes Dane County such a great place to live. Swimming, boating, fishing, relaxing—our lakes give all this and so much more.” Falk said, “The 37 lakes in Dane County contribute to the economies of many communities. This is a step we should take to preserve the health of our lakes.“ The county executive commended County Board Supervisor Andy Olsen for initiating the successful passage of a new county resolution restricting the use of phosphorus-containing fertilizer on county properties as a step in reducing phosphorus pollution. The measure was passed unanimously by the County Board on July 10, and was signed by Falk at today’s announcement, held at Law Park on Lake Monona in Madison. Falk also cited Supervisors Bill Graf, Brett Hulsey and John Hendrick for their work on the phosphorus use issue. Fertilizers normally contain a mix of nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Rainwater runoff from lawns treated with fertilizers flows to storm drainage systems and into the lakes where the phosphorus causes excessive algae growth, and decreases water clarity, often turning lakes green. Decaying algae also depletes oxygen in the water, so that fish can no longer thrive. Falk, in a letter today to the Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission, asks the commission to develop, introduce and work with the County Board to pass an ordinance that would: · Phase out the sale and use of phosphorus-containing lawn fertilizers, unless a soil test shows that phosphorus is necessary · Be in effect county-wide · Apply to golf courses, farmstead lawns, and commercial applications to lawns, and would · Exempt agricultural application of fertilizers, which is regulated under state law. Phosphorus has long been identified as a major pollutant harming lake health. Falk said this initiative would build on the county’s stormwater management and erosion control programs, and on the Lake Mendota Priority Watershed Project. Phosphorus-free fertilizer is already available at local retail establishments. Many communities in the Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota metro area already ban phosphorus-containing lawn fertilizers, and a statewide limitation on phosphorus in fertilizers goes into effect in Minnesota in January 2004. “This ordinance, in connection with other steps, can help us have clearer, healthier, more enjoyable lakes,” said Falk. In the meantime, Falk called on citizens to help prevent phosphorus pollution in county waterways by applying fertilizers carefully, including: · Water grass lightly right after fertilizing. Avoid applying lawn fertilizer when you expect heavy rainfall. · Sweep up and reuse any fertilizer granules that land on hard surfaces such as sidewalks or driveways. Left in place, they will wash into storm drains. · Most applied phosphorus stays in the upper few inches of soil. Be vigilant about controlling erosion. If topsoil washes into storm drains, it will carry phosphorus and other nutrients with it. · Avoid piling leaves or grass clippings in the street. As leaves and grass decompose, released nutrients -- including phosphorus -- drain into gutters. · Read fertilizer labels carefully. Packages are standardized to show the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium a product contains. Each number represents a percentage, by weight, always listed in the same order: nitrogen first, phosphorus, expressed as phosphate, second, and potassium, expressed as potash, third. For example, a 27-3-3 lawn fertilizer contains 27 percent nitrogen, 3 percent phosphate and 3 percent potash. The other 67 percent is inert filler or carrier, such as tiny clay particles. In phosphorus-free fertilizer, the second number will always be zero, such as 24-0-6. # # #
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