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March 16, 2009

Poisoning the Water for a Nice Green Lawn

This is one of my pet peeves. Starting in the early spring when I see those Chemlawn trucks rolling through my neighborhood, I want to have my Howard Beale moment. I want to run up to these people and scream, "Why are you pouring poison on your lawn?!?!?"

I don't do it, of course, but I do marvel at the willingness people have to blindly pour that stuff on their property and thence into their drinking water. It has always surprised my that municipalities didn't seem to care. Apparently, that's changing:
A new law proposed by Steve Levy, the Suffolk County executive, prohibits lawn fertilizer applications from Nov. 1 to April 1 to prevent nitrogen runoff from frozen ground. The law, which also requires retailers to post signs near fertilizer displays advising customers of the date restrictions, took effect in January. Violators, whether landscapers or homeowners, risk fines of $1,000.

In a county with no other source for drinking water for its 1.4 million residents, rising levels of nitrates are no small matter, county health officials said. Once concentrations in a water supply exceed a longstanding federal and state health standard of 10 milligrams per liter, public drinking wells must be shut down or else costly denitrification equipment must be added at the wellhead. Even at lower levels, nitrates become an environmental concern, health officials said.
The restriction seem pretty mild to me - I'd ban lawn fertilization outright. Heck, in a world where people insist on watering them even in the midst of severe drought and where homeowners associations fine members if they don't, I'd ban lawns! But I'm not really that Stalinist. Not yet, anyway.

Photo by heipei used under a CC license

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate your sentiments on chemical lawn care. It's a drag that a behavior with negative externalities is not regulated. I have a lawn care related question for you. We've been researching enviro friendly ways to curb mosquito breeding in our lawn. One suggestion we've come across is bacillus thuringiensus crystals. I wonder if you know anything about these and whether they're truly safe and enviro friendly? In our mosquito ridden part of the world, this topic may be of some interest to your readers? I'd be grateful for your thoughts.

Blogger Johannes 'heipei' Gilger said...

FYI, this being my lawn on the photo you used: We don't use chemicals ;)

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