“Clean Fertilizers, Healthier Lakes and Rivers Act” becomes law

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OLYMPIA – Toxic algae blooms are polluting some of Washington’s lakes, rivers and streams, but a new measure signed by the Governor today will help reduce this harmful and costly problem.

Dubbed the “Clean Fertilizers, Healthier Lakes and Rivers Act,” House Bill 1489made it through both the state House and Senate, and was sent to the Governor’s office late last week.  It limits phosphorous in lawn fertilizer, which has been shown to contribute to toxic algae blooms by providing a vital nutrient the algae require to grow.

“This is a giant step forward for clean water.  Other states have successfully reduced toxic algae blooms by passing similar legislation, and today Washington becomes another success story,” said Rep. Andy Billig (D – Spokane), who prime-sponsored the bill.

“Phosphorus is not needed for lawns to remain healthy and green.  Consumers won’t see a difference in their lawns, but their waterways will be safer and cleaner.”

In instances when phosphorous is necessary, such as when seeding a new lawn, planting a garden or for agricultural uses, the use of fertilizer with phosphorus is allowed under the bill.

In a speech on the House floor back in February, Billig said that as part-owner of the Spokane Indians – Spokane’s minor league baseball team – he is proud that, “our team probably plays on the nicest patch of grass in eastern Washington,” and that passage of the bill would not change that.

“Our team will still play on perfect turf, but now the Spokane River will be cleaner and healthier,” Billig said today.

The bill was a priority of the environmental community for the 2011 Legislative Session, and today supporters of clean waterways hailed the new legislation.

“Today is a great day for our state’s water bodies, and an important step towards our goal of improved water quality and aquatic health,” said Bart Mihailovich of Spokane Riverkeeper.  “It’s especially gratifying that this was a statewide bill that really had its strongest roots in Spokane.  It’s not every day that a statewide environmental initiative has its base of support in Eastern Washington.”

Billig represents the 3rd Legislative District, which includes the heart of Spokane.

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