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Fertilizer Bans Spread Across North America

The Long Island law goes into effect in 2009 and aims to prevent fertilizer runoff from flowing into bays, rivers and drinking water. Suffolk County covers the upper-income vacation playground of eastern Long Island.

A crazy quilt of fertilizer rules extends across North America, with cities, towns and counties enforcing their own laws. The state of Minnesota has a statewide ban on phosphorus. Now nitrogen-based fertilizer will be banned across much of Long Island, N.Y.


The Canadian province of Manitoba will also ban phosphorus starting in 2009.

The County of Suffolk, N.Y. has banned nitrogen-based fertilizer use between Nov. 1 and April 1, though county-owned land will be exempt when the law takes effect in 2009. Landscapers and homeowners will be required to abide by the new rule, however.

Suffolk County covers the upper-income vacation playground of eastern Long Island.

Water Protection Goal

The goal of most of the anti-fertilizer legislation is to protect streams, lakes, groundwater and other watersheds.

The bill, which County Executive Steve Levy pledged to sign, includes a maximum fine of $1,000. County property was excluded from the bill, Levy spokesman Mark Smith said, because fertilizer is only used on golf courses, at the county farm and at public works projects where sodding is necessary.

Smith said the county's four golf courses and farm don't ban fertilizer use during specific dates, but have a policy of "minimizing the use and using best practices."

Landscapers are Targeted

Carrie Meek Gallagher, the county's environment and energy commissioner, said the law was designed primarily to stop commercial landscapers from using too much fertilizer. But individual homeowners and private golf courses are also covered by its provisions.

The bill also requires stores that sell fertilizer to post signs and informational brochures regarding fertilizer use within 10 feet of fertilizer display areas.

Asked by Legis. Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) how the county plans to verify fertilizer complaints, Gallagher said it would use carbon-dating to test the soil to determine the amount of fertilizer in the ground and for how long it was there.


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October 17, 2019, 9:13 am PDT

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