Environmental legislation usually isn’t the focal point of a legislative session, particularly in a difficult budget year. This, however, does not mean that environmentally beneficial legislation is absent. Senator Scott White’s (D-46, Seattle) Senate Bill 5194, intends to protect water quality through restrictions on fertilizer containing phosphorus.
Phosphorus is a naturally occurring nutrient that is essential to both plant and animal life. Under natural conditions, phosphorus enters the water through the weathering of rocks and precipitation of dust. “When phosphorus in fertilizer washes off of our lawns into lakes, rivers, and Puget Sound,” according to the Environmental Priorities Coalition, “it causes pollution that costs taxpayers and businesses millions of dollars to clean up.”
Even more troubling is that excess phosphorus can lead to overgrowth of weeds and algae. These organisms can cause adverse water quality conditions because after they die, they suck the oxygen from our coastal waters. This results in the loss of deep water oxygen which in turn creates vast ‘dead zones’. According to an article published in Scientific American on March 2008, “[In dead zones], no fish or typical sea life can survive … Such ‘dead zones’ have appeared seasonally near most major river mouths, including those emptying into Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay as well as the Gulf of Mexico, where lifeless waters now cover more than 7,700 square miles during the summer months.”
Senate Bill 5194, is a ban on turf fertilizer labeled as containing phosphorus – with a few exceptions. Similar legislation has been introduced and even gone into effect regarding phosphorus in laundry and dishwashing detergents. For Seattle residents, this bill is a no-brainer. Washingtonians love their environment and we love our Puget Sound. As with any bill that regulates industry, however, it is common to see some resistance. When asked about the opposition Sen. White said, “Even though the bill targets the use of phosphorous on residential lawns, there are some industry sectors such as golf courses that have expressed concerns.” But White remains optimistic about the passage of the bill. “Both the Senate bill (SB 5194) and the House bill (HB 1271) sponsored by all-star State Rep. Andy Billig, are moving through the process. A broad coalition of citizens, environmental and business entities support this bill.” If passed, SB 5194 will go into effect Jan. 1, 2013.