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. To prevent nutrient loading of waters and reduce the number of harmful algal blooms along Long Island, this bill prohibits the sale of lawn 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. In 2015, there were 32 documented human illnesses related to harmful algal bloom exposure in New York. In 2017, New York beaches were closed for 104 days because harmful algal blooms made the water too toxic to swim in, impacting tourism and local businesses. In 2018, 24 harmful algal blooms were reported on Long Island.
Overloading nutrients, like nitrogen, combined with increasing temperatures from climate change, has increased the frequency and severity of harmful algal blooms in New York. Limiting 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.
With low-nitrogen fertilizers readily available on the market, 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.
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.