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Point Set to Outlaw Fertilizer Containing Phosphorous

 

By Jack Fichter

CAPE MAY POINT — You wouldn’t walk down to Lake Lily and throw in a bag of fertilizer but if you fertilize your lawn and rain washes it down a storm sewer, you may have caused a similar affect.
Borough Commission has introduced an ordinance to limit use of fertilizers containing phosphorus. Lake Lily has been plagued for years with excessive algae growth that has turned portions of the freshwater lake green in color in warm weather. A number of storm sewers feed water into the lake.
The ordinance notes “elevated levels of nutrients, particularly phosphorus, in surface water bodies can result in excessive and accelerated growth of algae and aquatic plants.”
Excessive plant growth can result in daily variations and extremes in dissolved oxygen and pH, which, in turn, can be detrimental to aquatic life. As algae and plant materials die off, the decay process creates a further demand on dissolved oxygen levels,” said the ordinance.
It notes most soils in New Jersey contain sufficient amounts of phosphorus to support adequate root growth for established turf.
Environmental Commission Chairperson Sally Sachs told the Herald a representative from the state Department of Environmental Commission informed the borough the phosphorus level of Lake Lily was high. Stafford Township is credited with the being the first municipality with passing an ordinance prohibiting use of fertilizers containing phosphorus, she said.
Sachs said she believed Scotts’ fertilizers were phosphorus-free.
Lake Lily has been suffering runoff from new “McMansion” houses in the borough with full lawns. That defies a tradition in the borough for natural lawns without a lot of manicuring and chemicals, said Sachs.
Despite putting Clean-Flo aerators in the lake and a major dredging in 2004 at a cost of $1 million, algae have continued to flourish in the lake. Sachs said the aerators had trouble operating because there was so much growth in the lake.
She said the lake is on “life support.” The official term is “eutrophication.” Too much phosphorous in the water results in an over growth of algae growth in the lake which lowers the oxygen levels and introduces poisonous toxins which can results in fish kills.
Phosphorus fertilizer is defined in the ordinance as “any fertilizer that contains phosphorus expressed as P2O5, with a guaranteed analysis of greater than zero; except that it shall not be considered to include animal (including human) or vegetable manures, agricultural liming materials, or wood ashes that have not been amended to increase their nutrient content.”
The ordinance describes a buffer area 25 feet in width, adjacent to any water body or storm sewer grate that empties into a water body, in which fertilizer cannot be applied. DEP believes that 25 feet is the appropriate buffer width to be protective of water quality. However, in situations that warrant additional flexibility, such as where lot sizes are exceptionally small or where the 25 foot buffer constitutes the majority of the available property, the municipality may reduce the buffer to 10 feet in width, with the additional requirement that a drop spreader be used for fertilizer application,” notes the ordinance.
Prohibited Conduct:
• Applying fertilizer when a runoff producing rainfall is occurring or predicted and/or when soils are saturated and a potential for fertilizer movement off-site exists.
• Applying fertilizer to an impervious surface. Fertilizer inadvertently applied to an impervious surface must be swept or blown back into the target surface or returned to either its original or another appropriate container for reuse.
• Applying fertilizer more than 15 days prior to the start of or at any time after the end of the recognized growing season according to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone is listed as February 1 to November 30.
• Depositing grass clippings, leaves or other vegetation debris into water bodies, storm drains or impervious surfaces except during scheduled clean-up programs.
An exception is allowing application of phosphorus-containing fertilizer in establishing vegetation for the first time, such as after land disturbance, application of phosphorus fertilizer that delivers liquid or granular fertilizer under the soils surface, and directly to the feeder roots or application of phosphorus fertilizer to residential container plantings, flowerbeds, or vegetable gardens.
The Code Enforcement Official shall enforce the ordinance.
The Web site American-lawns.com said studies have shown that Canadian geese contribute to an overabundance of phosphorus. It notes that studies have shown that one adult goose will excrete nearly a pound of phosphorus per year.
A public hearing on the ordinance will be held at Borough Commission’s March 11 meeting.
The Borough of West Cape May is preparing a similar ordinance.

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