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Legislation Proposed to Limit Phosphorus on Lawns

January 12, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS - A northeast Indiana lawmaker wants to help keep Hoosier State lakes and reservoirs safe from algae blooms by restricting the use of lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus.

State Rep. Dick Dodge, R-Pleasant Lake, says algae is the green scum that grows on top of the water and chokes off oxygen to fish and other wildlife.

"Excess fertilizer or phosphorus contributes to that and also can be a contamination problem with the lakes and reservoirs. The other things it does: It contributes to excessive weed growth."

Blue-green algae also can produce toxins that are harmful to humans. Dodge says the proposed fertilizer restrictions do not apply to agriculture. He says farm phosphorus use is more closely monitored by the state chemist's office.

There are exceptions to the proposed restrictions on phosphorus, Dodge says.

"There is a provision there that would allow for a soil test - by doing a soil sample test that would indicate that there would be a need for phosphorus - or if it was a new lawn application."

Kim Ferraro, director of water policy for the Hoosier Environmental Council, says it's not hard to find a lake or pond that has been affected.

"If you live next to a lake, you'll see that most lakes in Indiana - in fact, I think it's more than 16,000 of them - are impaired now for algae growth. Seven thousand of those are specifically due to too much phosphorus."

Algae from phosphorus is more than just an eyesore, Ferraro says.

"The algae forms this sort of a green scum on top of the lake. It reduces, or in some cases eliminates, the oxygen in the lake, which then kills fish and other aquatic life."

The bill would require lawn companies to provide information to homeowners about how excess phosphorus impacts the environment.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN