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New law limits fertilizers: Violations punishable by fines and/or prison

Thanks to the leadership of Water Advisory Committee member Lisa Shaw and a group of volunteers, the Island now has legislation on the books to protect Island ground and surface water from fertilizer contamination.

The vote Monday night was 4-0 to limit fertilizer use to protect the Island’s sole aquifer. The new law bans fertilizer application between November 1 and April 1. No fertilizer is to be put on impervious surfaces or on any turf within 100 feet of any surface water or property.

Landscapers who apply fertilizers must display a valid Suffolk County Nitrogen Fertilizer Turf Management Certificate.

Violations can incur a fine of between $500 to $2,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 15 days. Each day of a continued violation would constitute a separate additional offense.

Ms. Shaw has made it clear from the start of her campaign that licensed lawn care company workers aren’t the culprits, since they understand how much fertilizers to use and the best time to apply them. Her concerns have been aimed at the unlicensed lawn care workers and individual property owners who may not all know the best practices with fertilizer use.

Ms. Shaw also acknowledged fertilizers are a relatively small contributor to water contamination, but any reduction is important.

The subcommittee has developed an educational brochure to advise homeowners about proper fertilizer use, but Ms. Shaw has argued that without strong legislation, the educational results would be limited.