A Suffolk bill that would have restricted nitrogen levels in fertilizers will be revamped, the bill’s sponsor said Tuesday.
More than 20 representatives from landscaping companies, nurseries and fertilizer manufacturers told Suffolk legislators in Hauppauge that the ban on certain fertilizers would do little to improve water quality and outlaw most products currently in use.
Legis. William J. Lindsay III (D-Bohemia) said he plans to meet with environmentalists and industry professionals Thursday to reach a compromise between protecting ground- and surface water and not hurting businesses.
“The intent is to come up with a bill to lower nitrogen levels,” Lindsay said.
As written, the bill would ban the sale or application of fertilizers with more than 10 percent total nitrogen or 5 percent water-soluble nitrogen. Sale or application would be subject to a $500 fine. Farms, golf courses and athletic fields would be exempt from the application restriction.
Most fertilizers currently applied by landscapers and sold on store shelves exceed those nitrogen levels, manufacturers said.
Melissa Daniels, past president of the Long Island Nursery & Landscape Association, said most products would be pulled from shelves and what would be left would be less effective. She said residents need to be educated about properly applying fertilizers.
“It’s much more complicated than just reducing that percentage of nitrogen,” she said.
Lindsay said the ban was not aimed at professional landscapers. “It’s more weekend warriors like myself, who throw down whatever,” he said.
Environmentalists and Suffolk officials have made combating nitrogen in ground- and surface water a top priority. The largest source of nitrogen comes from homes not connected to sewers.
Studies estimate that fertilizers contribute from 7 percent to 11 percent of nitrogen, said Doug Wood, a co-founder of Port Washington-based advocacy group Grassroots Environmental Education.
“This is a piece of the puzzle,” said Wood, who spoke in favor of the bill.
Lawmakers also heard from supporters of kratom, a plant-based dietary supplement that would be banned under a proposed law by Legis. Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills). Supporters said the plant helps relieve pain, anxiety and symptoms for opiod withdrawal.
The ban was a “knee-jerk reaction” to bad publicity, said Chris Cartar, 40 of Greenlawn, who uses kratom to deal with chronic pain.
Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said the Drug Enforcement Agency said kratom was addictive and available in gas stations, head shops and convenience stores.
The bill would make it a misdemeanor to sell kratom, but possession would still be legal. The bill is scheduled to be voted on by the legislature on May 10.