Submitted by the office of Sen. James Eldridge
The Senate and House last week passed House bill 4306, An Act Relative to Reducing Phosphorus Runoff, which will reduce phosphorus runoff into area waterways, providing significant environmental benefit and saving communities millions of dollars in complying with new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. While most manufacturers are moving away from using phosphorus in their lawn fertilizer products, they are still a big factor in polluting rivers, ponds and streams.
The legislation restricts the use of fertilizer products containing phosphorus in areas that are most likely to cause environmental degradation due to runoff, and also creates civil penalties for violations of the law. Under the bill, retailers selling phosphorous containing fertilizer must sell product separate from non-phosphorus fertilizer and post signage indicating the rules. The bill allows for the use of fertilizers with phosphorus when a soil test indicates it is needed for growth, such as for agricultural land or new lawns. The legislation also gives the Department of Agriculture the authority to specifically create restrictions surrounding phosphorous use.
“This legislation will help improve the water quality in our rivers, reducing the presence of phosphorus, and save millions of dollars for communities across the Commonwealth,” said Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, senate vice-chair of the Joint Committee on Natural Resources, Environment and Agriculture. “I give great credit to Representative John Fernandes and Senator Richard Moore for filing this legislation, and to the Massachusetts Municipal Association, Massachusetts Audubon Society and 495/MetroWest Partnership for their work on getting the bill to Governor Patrick’s desk.”
Massachusetts would join a number of other states that have adopted phosphorus restrictions or bans in fertilizers. The EPA has ordered municipalities, treatment plants, businesses, and other large producers of wastewater to reduce the amount of phosphorus being discharged by stormwater systems into rivers, lakes and streams, where it stimulates algae growth. This legislation will ease the pressure on municipalities to remove phosphorus from stormwater and wastewater.
"Cities and towns and the Massachusetts Municipal Association applaud the passage of this essential legislation to restrict phosphorous in fertilizers," said MMA Executive Director Geoffrey Beckwith. "This legislation will protect our waterways and sensitive environmental regions from harmful discharges that choke and restrict stream flow and natural habitats. Municipal officials, as stewards of the environment in every community, thank the Legislature and Governor for this important initiative."