Spin Control

WA Lege Day 95: Gregoire signs lawn fertilizer bill

Gov. Chris Gregoire congratulates Rep. Andy Billig on passing his first bill, a law restricting the use of lawn fertilizers with phosphorus, on April 14, 2011. (Jim Camden/The Spokesman-Review)
Gov. Chris Gregoire congratulates Rep. Andy Billig on passing his first bill, a law restricting the use of lawn fertilizers with phosphorus, on April 14, 2011. (Jim Camden/The Spokesman-Review)

Gov. Chris Gregoire congratulates Rep. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, after signing his bill to restrict lawn fertilizers with phosphorus.

OLYMPIA -- Finding fertilizer with phosphorus to spread on lawns in Washington will become difficult by 2013 under law signed Thursday.

As part of the state's ongoing restrictions on phosphorus in commercial household products, the new law discourages homeowners from putting fertilizers with that chemical on healthy lawns. Stores that sell turf fertilizers with phosphorus will be required to have them labeled for use on new or damaged lawns.

It was one of more than a dozen bills signed Thursday by Gov. Chris Gregoire on a wide range of topics.

House Bill 1489, was sponsored by Rep. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, and supported by city officials. It restricts the sale and use of lawn fertilizers with phosphorus in an effort to reduce the amount of that chemical in the state's lakes, streams and rivers, where it contributes to algae growth. Supporters said that phosphorus isn't necessary for healthy lawns and is less likely to be trapped in the soil in those uses, making it more likely to run off with excessive watering or heavy rains, although opponents said phosphorus rarely runs off if applied properly..

The bill doesn't restrict phosphorus in fertilizers for agricultural uses, vegetables or flowers. It's primarily directed at home lawn use, but also covers the use of fertilizers on golf courses.

In the past, the state has restricted phosphorus in laundry detergent and dishwashing detergent. Those actions were usually greeted by complaints from some consumers who said they would drive to Idaho to buy the products they believe do a better job.

In signing the bill, Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed a section that she said would prevent the Department of Agriculture from issuing civil penalties to enforce the law. She also said she was disappointed the bill does not exempt fertilizer with organic materials such as manure. Although they contain phosphorus, using them as fertilizer is a good way to manage waste, she said.

But because the bill doesn't take effect until 2013, she urged Billig and other legislators present for the signing to take that issue up in next year's session. 

Among other bills signed included laws to provide help for homeowners facing foreclosure, to allow wine and beer tasting at farmers markets on a trial basis, to waive the corkage fees at restaurants and to give more flexibilities to local governments to set the terms for planning commissioners.




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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Olympia bureau chief, covering the Legislature and state government. He also is a political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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