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Sen. Hannon: Move to ban some lawn fertilizer needs more study

ALBANY — A fast-moving campaign to ban lawn fertilizers that contain high amounts of nitrogen might require more time, a key Long Island lawmaker said Monday.

Sen. Kemp Hannon said state legislators need to take action to reduce nitrogen-fueled water pollution on the Island. But a proposal to prohibit certain types of fertilizer widely used for greening lawns, which has been gaining momentum quickly in the State Legislature, “turns out to be a lot more complicated than” first thought, the senator said.

He said the details and ramifications need more study before the legislature takes action.

“We obviously have a problem with nitrogen and we need to address it,” Hannon (R-Garden City) said at the State Capitol. “But others are telling us, ‘Look, if you do a ban on fertilizers, you’re not addressing the whole problem.’ ”

At issue is a bill backed by Hannon and Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) that would ban the sale of nonagricultural fertilizers that are more than 12 percent nitrogen by weight. These types of enrichers primarily are used to “make grass look greener,” the sponsors said in a memo, and are “one of the main sources” of nitrogen in the Island’s water.

“We don’t have to sacrifice the quality of our coastal waters to have a healthy lawn,” Englebright said in a statement.

Activists said a ban is needed in Nassau and Suffolk counties because of their “unique and fragile ecosystem.”

“Lawn products that may be OK to use elsewhere are harming our environment, and we need to take steps to address that,” said Patti Wood, executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education.

Introduced two weeks ago, the bill has moved rapidly through committees in the Assembly and technically could be voted on there this week. Hannon said the State Senate is not acting that quickly because the issue needs further review.

The legislature is set to adjourn for the year on June 20.

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