To have a clear image of how detrimental harmful algal blooms can be, look no further than spring 2015 in Riverhead, New York, when hundreds of dead turtles and thousands of fish carcasses floated to the water’s surface. Nutrient loading of our waters, which causes harmful algal blooms, is preventable. This bill prevents nutrient loading of waters along Long Island by prohibiting the sale of fertilizers with high percentages of nitrogen in Suffolk and Nassau Counties.
Harmful algal blooms are a widespread and increasing problem for waterbodies and public health throughout the state. In 2015, there were 35 documented human illnesses related to harmful algal bloom exposure in New York. In 2016, for the first time in New York, a dangerous toxin from harmful algal blooms was found in treated drinking water for approximately 50,000 residents in Cayuga County. In 2017, over 100 beaches in New York were closed part of the summer due to harmful algal blooms, impacting tourism and local businesses.
Overloading nutrients, like nitrogen, combined with increasing temperatures from climate change, has made harmful algal blooms a critical issue to address in New York. Limits for the percentage of nitrogen in fertilizers will reduce the amount of it that runs off during rain events and, thus, lower nitrogen levels in waters.
This bill is an important step to address harmful algal blooms in New York. We recommend that the prohibitions for high percentage nitrogen fertilizers be extended to cover the entire state. As far too many communities know, harmful algal blooms are not limited to Suffolk and Nassau Counties. We also recommend that the law come into effect at an earlier date – with alternative fertilizers already on the market, action on this should not be delayed until December 31, 2021.
This bill adds a new section to the Environmental Conservation Law to require that only low nitrogen fertilizer with no more than twelve percent nitrogen by weight is sold in Suffolk and Nassau counties.