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CCE IN THE NEWS

Source: Newsday

Group: More awareness needed of winter fertilizer ban

BY JENNIFER SMITH

Posted: October 28, 2010
Originally Published: October 27, 2010

Suffolk has banned fertilizer use during the winter since 2009, but a spot check this fall of retail stores that sell fertilizer found that only 53 percent displayed the required educational posters and pamphlets, officials said Wednesday.

Intended to limit nitrogen pollution in local groundwater and bays, the measure bans fertilizer applications between Nov. 1 and April 1. No residents or landscapers have yet been fined for violations; officials and advocates said the goal was to make sure residents knew about the ban.

Nassau legislators approved a similar ban (theirs is Nov. 15 through April 1) last year.

"The purpose of the law is to educate the public, and we need our businesses to help us do that," Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment said at a news conference at a Hauppauge hardware store. The Farmingdale group surveyed 30 stores this fall and ranked them on whether they posted the required information and whether cashiers knew of the ban.

When ground is frozen and plants are dormant, nitrates from fertilizer are more likely to leach into groundwater or wash off into streams and bays, where they can trigger harmful blooms of algae. "Polluted runoff is a silent killer of these water bodies," said the group's Maureen Dolan Murphy.

The survey found small businesses tended to have a better track record than big-box stores. Among the offenders: Sears in Lindenhurst and Walmart in Centereach, it said. Stores face fines of up to $1,000 if they don't comply.

Suffolk has held classes to brief more than 1,000 landscapers on the new law, County Executive Steve Levy said. He hoped the brochures and posters at stores that sell fertilizers would help consumers understand the reason for the ban and boost compliance.

"More is not better when it comes to fertilizer," Levy said. "You're basically fertilizing the waterways when you fertilize your lawn in the middle of winter."

*** Watch video of the 10/27/10 press conference on CCE's YouTube channel.