Green lawns equal polluted water

Green lawns equal polluted water


It’s that time of year again when most everyone in suburbia is focused on the quest to achieve the greenest lawn.  Big mistake! Green grass leads to polluted water.

Those beautiful green lawns—the kind that one environmentalist once coined as “trophy lawns”—are created by using higher nitrogen content fertilizer. Nitrogen runoff that occurs after every rainfall is one of the biggest contributors to polluting our already imperiled waterways, second only to wastewater from septic tanks and cesspools. Unlike the costly and time-consuming process of installing sewers—which is certainly something that should eventually occur—stopping the use of high-nitrogen treatments can make a big impact now. A law pending in Albany (A10276) could make that happen.

The Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan is a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation initiative that’s aimed at reducing the amount of nitrogen in Long Island’s surface and groundwater by partnering with the Long Island Regional Planning Council and Suffolk and Nassau counties. There’s also input from a number of environmental groups. In a report filed last summer, LINAP noted that high nitrogen levels in surface water causes toxic algal blooms that can kill fish and harm marine habitats as well as the natural, protective marshes along the coastline. So why are these toxic fertilizers still being used?

Last month, representatives from various businesses in the lawn care industry met with state representatives here on Long Island to essentially complain about the bill that had just passed the Assembly. The bill would ban high-nitrogen fertilizer from being sold and used here on Long island. That’s a good thing.

However, chemical manufacturers have claimed that banning these products would hurt their businesses. So what? The chemicals they sell damage a whole lot more. Landscapers and nursery owners should realize that, too. And they shouldn’t worry about losing customers just because their lawns aren’t as green as the neighbors’. If the ban goes through, every lawn will look the same; not as green, but certainly a whole lot healthier, and eventually, so will our waters.

Just this week, 76 beaches island-wide had to close due to unhealthy water quality caused by runoff following a heavy rainfall. Similar closings have taken place in the past, and no doubt the water quality at our beaches will continue to be an issue all summer.

That’s a good enough reason to make the case for this bill to move forward.