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Phosphorus bans: First detergent, next lawn fertilizer?

.OLYMPIA — Washington, which already has restrictions on laundry and dishwasher detergents, could ban phosphorus in lawn fertilizers.

A bill before the state Senate that would require low- or no-phosphorus fertilizers for lawns – although not for golf courses or on farms – got a series of thumbs up Tuesday from environmental groups and Spokane businesses that included Avista and Inland Empire Paper Company.

SB 6289 was opposed, however, by agriculture groups and landscapers.

Phosphorus can stimulate algae growth in lakes and streams. The city and county of Spokane, as well as other large producers of waste water along the Spokane River like Inland Paper, are under orders to reduce phosphorus. Some phosphorus in lawn fertilizers do not bind with the soil and run off the lawns from watering or rain, the Senate Environment, Water and Energy Committee was told. Storm water runoff is typically not treated by sewage facilities that can remove phosphorus.

“This is critically important in places such as Spokane, which are trying to reach the lowest phosphorus levels in the country,” said Rick Eichstaedt of Spokane Riverkeepers. It’s particularly important for residents along Lake Spokane, where algae blooms every summer, he added.

Heather Hanson, who represents farm groups and landscapers, said phosphorus occurs naturally in the environment, and it’s not possible to separate it from some organic fertilizers. The bill requires expensive soil tests and ties enforcement actions to neighbor complaints, she said.

“Do you really want neighbors complaining about neighbors?” Hanson asked.

State Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane and a bill co-sponsor, noted farmers and landscapers are exempted and wondered about their opposition: “Is this just a general concern, or a love of phosphates?”

Washington banned phosphate laundry detergents in 1993, and began a similar ban on phosphate dishwashing detergents in 2008. The ban started in Spokane, Clark and Whatcom counties, and is scheduled to take effect in the rest of the state this year.
The change in dishwashing detergent has led to complaints from some consumers that the products without phosphorus don’t do as good of a job, and reports of people driving to Idaho or elsewhere outside the county to buy the old detergent.

Eight other states have some type of restriction on phosphorus in fertilize


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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

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