BALTIMORE – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) today joined Environment Maryland and other Maryland advocates and business representatives to call for action to reduce urban fertilizer pollution. Environment Maryland also released their new report on the topic, Urban Fertilizers & the Chesapeake Bay: An Opportunity for Major Pollution Reduction.
“We all reap the rewards from the Bay’s extraordinary economic and ecological benefits,” said Senator Ben Cardin, chair of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “All 17 million of us who live in the watershed need to be part of the restoration effort, too. Wastewater utilities are cutting pollution from their facilities, municipalities are reducing polluted runoff from streets, and farmers are putting conservation practices on the ground. Environment Maryland’s report on urban and suburban fertilizer use points out that homeowners and businesses also need to be part of the solution by reducing the chemicals we put on our lawns and other green spaces.”
“It is clear that fertilizer pollution threatens the waters and ecosystems of our most treasured icon and resource, the Chesapeake Bay,” stated Megan Cronin, Policy Associate for Environment Maryland. “Choosing to reduce pollution from fertilizers should be an easy decision for Maryland because it is smart, straightforward, and amazingly affordable. If done right reducing fertilizer pollution would enable Marylanders to keep lush, green lawns without sacrificing the quality of our water. It is so clearly right that the only question I have is ‘why was it not done sooner’?”
“All diets require sacrifice and determination. The “pollution diet” for the Chesapeake Bay requires everyone to sacrifice in order to reduce pollutants flowing into the Bay. Controlling lawn fertilizers will be major step toward improvement of the Bay water quality,” stated Vincent Gardina, Director, Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability.
According to the report, turf grass—manicured areas like lawns and golf courses—is Maryland’s largest crop, covering an estimated 1.3 million acres in Maryland. That’s more than one fifth of Maryland’s total land cover, and over 86% of that turf is home lawns. The extensive coverage of turf grass becomes problematic when we apply fertilizers containing nutrients that, when applied in excess, can run off into our waterways when it rains or snows. This process harms the bay and contributes to the dead zones that cover over one third of the bay each summer.
In 2009 the Chesapeake Bay Program, a federal and state partnership, announced that only 24 percent of water restoration goals have been achieved. Because of our failure to attain these goals, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is putting the Bay on a “pollution diet” that will guide the region in restoring the Chesapeake Bay to a healthy and vibrant state. The goal is to reduce the Bay’s leading pollutants—nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment—to levels the water can tolerate and remain healthy. Each state in the region has written Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) to meet thegoals of the pollution diet.
As part of Maryland’s WIP, legislators in Annapolis have introduced three bills that address urban and suburban fertilizer runoff. They propose to limit pollution in several ways such as banning phosphorus from fertilizers labeled for established lawns, specifying the amounts and types of nitrogen that exists in the fertilizer, and ensuring that professionals apply less fertilizer at the start. These measures will ensure that fertilizers contain enough of the kinds of nutrients needed to maintain a healthy lawn without over saturating it. In addition to changing the fertilizer formulas these bills will also decrease the amount of fertilizer that professionals are currently able to apply. The importance of passing bills like these has never been so apparent.
State laws designed to clean our waters from all sources of pollution, fertilizer included, support the efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency in a time when their authority is being challenged and their power is receding. Congress is proposing steep budget cuts for the EPA and attempting to cripple the one of the EPA’s most foundational laws, the Clean Air Act.