The Senate passed a measure today that would limit when and where people can use fertilizer that contains phosphorus in Washington, a move environmentalists said was an important step toward better water quality in the state.
In a 32-16 vote the Senate approved House Bill 1489, one of the environmental lobby’s four main priorities for the session.
“This legislation protects our state’s water supplies and our groundwater,” said Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, during floor debate on the bill. “It is an important step forward.”
According to the Ecology Department, phosphorus runoff can lead to algae blooms in lakes and streams, and, when the algae dies off, it uses up the oxygen in the water, harming aquatic life.
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The bill would prohibit the use of phosphorus fertilizer on turf unless it is being used to establish or repair a lawn during growing season. Phosphorus fertilizer would be permitted for agriculture and gardens.
The proposal underwent some changes since it passed the House in February. In the Senate version, a provision was removed that would have exempted fertilizers that contain phosphorus from all-organic sources and one was added to allow retailers to continue to sell phosphorus fertilizer as long as they got it in stock before Jan. 1, 2012.
Several other states, including New York, Minnesota and Wisconsin have enacted rules limiting lawn fertilizer that contains phosphorus.
In order to go into effect, Washington’s bill still has to be reconciled with the House version and approved by the governor.