Tuesday, December 14, 2010

NJ Passes Clean Water Bills

Fishing at Island Beach State Park (NJDEP)

The NJ Legislature passed a bill yesterday giving New Jersey the most restrictive standards on fertilizer in the nation.

The bill, which Governor Christie has already pledged to sign, is designed to reduce the amount of nitrogen that can wash into the state’s bays, lakes and rivers.

It restricts the nitrogen content of fertilizers and also sets limits on when homeowners and contractors can spread fertilizer on lawns. Unfortunately, golf courses are exempt from the new rules.

A package of other bills related to Barnegat Bay also passed the Assembly and should come up for a state Senate vote next Monday, sponsors say.

A compromise (after more than a year of negotiations) led to the requirement that all fertilizers contain at least 20 percent slow-release nitrogen. 30 percent was desired by environmental groups and 15 percent was the amount set by fertilizer manufacturer Scotts Miracle-Gro and Rutgers turf-grass experts.

Nitrogen is the focus because it often gets washed by rains into the state’s bays and other water bodies. It provides nutrients for algae and other aquatic plants that can grow so quickly they reduce oxygen levels in the water, threatening fish and other wildlife.

The heaviest blooms also cut off sunlight to the sea grasses that provide protective habitat to marine animals and prevent marsh erosion.

This growth can also hinder recreational boating and swimming in some waters.

How does it affect you directly?

Homeowners will be banned from applying fertilizer between Nov. 15 and March 1 and whenever the ground is frozen. In a similar vein, fertilizer can’t be used within 10 feet of any water body or just before a heavy rainfall. Professionals will be barred from applying fertilizer between Dec. 1 and March 1.

The legislation also bans the use of phosphorus in fertilizer to protect fresh water bodies such as lakes and streams. Some fertilizer manufacturers already have products that meet or exceed the standards set by the legislation.Those that do not will have one year from the bill’s implementation to comply.

The New Jersey Sierra Club applauded the legislation and noted its importance in protecting drinking water and the coastal tourism industry.

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