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County Executive's Office

County Exec. Falk and Lakes & Watershed Commission Announce New Provisions of Proposed Ordinance to Limit Phosphorus in Lawn Fertilizers

January 22, 2004
Sharyn Wisniewski, 267-8823
County Executive

Ordinance, designed to reduce nuisance algae in the lakes, will be introduced to the County Board tonight Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, joined by members of the Dane County Board and the Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission, today announced that a path-breaking ordinance to limit use and retail display of phosphorus-containing lawn fertilizers in Dane County will be introduced to the County Board tonight. Last July, Falk asked the Commission to develop, introduce and work with the County Board to pass an ordinance limiting phosphorus in lawn fertilizers in order to improve lake water quality. The Lakes and Watershed Commission Tuesday voted unanimously to recommend passage of the ordinance they developed and revised. “We love our lakes. This is something we can do to have green lawns without causing green lakes,” said Falk. “I commend the Lakes and Watershed Commission for crafting a workable ordinance that gained widespread support. Now, it is in the hands of the County Board,” said Falk, speaking before an aquarium with freshwater fish and turtles in the Discovery Center & Herpetarium at the Dane County Henry Vilas Zoo. The ordinance would be in effect county-wide. Falk commended Supervisor Andy Olsen for initiating the proposal, and Supervisors Brett Hulsey, Bill Graf and Lyman Anderson who worked hard, serving on the 10-member Commission. Supervisor Olsen said, “The Lakes & Watershed Commission has held real, legitimate public hearings and thoroughly investigated this issue. We listened to all sides and made a number of adjustments to the ordinance based on public input. I look forward to working with all County Board members to pass this ordinance this term.” Supervisor Brett Husley said, “The phosphorous phaseout is the next step we need to clean up our lakes and reduce algae. DNR studies show that almost one-fourth of the phosphorous pollution in Lake Mendota comes from developed areas, so we need to do our part to clean up the lakes." Supervisor Lyman Anderson said, “Dane County farmers have worked to reduce phosphorus runoff for some time. This is a common sense way for urban dwellers to help us get clean lakes. In the Lake Mendota Watershed alone, there are over 7,000 acres of farmland with a nutrient management plan that meets the phosphorus standard." 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. The ordinance would phase out use of phosphorus-containing lawn fertilizers, unless a soil test shows that phosphorus is necessary. It allows for retail sale and display of phosphorus-containing fertilizer, up to 25% of the quantity of all lawn fertilizer on display at any given time. The commission voted to delay the effective date until January 2005 to accommodate retailers' concerns about inventory already ordered. Educational materials will be required to be displayed beginning May 2004. Other provisions of the ordinance: · Make clear that golf courses, farmstead lawns, and commercial applications to lawns are subject to the ordinance · Exempt fertilizers intended primarily for garden and indoor plant application, and fertilizers applied to trees and shrubs · Clarify that yard waste compost and biosolids intended primarily as soil amendments are exempt from the ordinance · Specify penalties for ordinance violations; with higher penalties for commercial/retail violations · Specify that the ordinance will be enforced by the Environmental Health Section of the Public Health Division, Dane County Department of Human Services. 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, on the Lake Mendota Priority Watershed Project, and on county, state and federal programs to reduce phosphorus runoff from agricultural sources. # # #
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