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Why the City of Greater Sudbury needs a Bylaw to Restrict Lawn Fertilizers with Phosphorus

ď “ Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

ď “ The Greater Sudbury Watershed

Alliance (GSWA) is an independent, grassroots partnership of lake, river and creek stewardship committees, lawn care professionals and concerned individuals working together on watershed issues in the City of Greater Sudbury.

Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

City of Lakes

 With 330 lakes in our city, it’s no

wonder we are known locally as the City of Lakes.*  We are the stewards of these lakes

and rivers and are entrusted to protect them for our children and their children. *City of Lakes is an official branded logo developed by the Greater Sudbury Lake Improvement Advisory Panel. Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

The Importance of Our Lakes

The lakes of Greater Sudbury are the jewels of our community but lake water quality has increasingly become a concern for many Sudburians as blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms are being detected in Ramsey Lake, Long Lake, McFarlane Lake, Windy Lake, Nepewassi Lake, and in the French River.

Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

The Danger from Blue-Green Algae Blooms

ď “ People can get sick from the microcystin toxin

algae produces if they have direct contact with a bloom, by either intentionally or accidentally swallowing water, by having direct skin contact, or by breathing airborne droplets containing the toxins, such as during boating or waterskiing. ď “ Microcystin toxin can damage liver cells when

ingested. Children are at greater risk than adults of developing serious liver damage should they ingest high levels of microcystins. Animals have died after drinking water contaminated with bluegreen algae. Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

How else can blue-green algae affect us?

Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

Why is blue-green algae forming blooms more frequently in our lakes?


It is widely accepted by scientists that phosphorus is the limiting nutrient that contributes to blue-green algae blooms and reduces water quality. As more development occurs around lakes, phosphorus levels in lake water increases due to a variety of human activities.


Research has shown 1 pound of phosphorus can grow 700 pounds of blue-green algae.

Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

Other Effects of Phosphorus

High phosphorus levels can lead to the growth of another type of algae called green algae. These algae blooms create foul odors and can prevent swimming, fishing, boating, and other normal summer activities. This problem exists in Simon, McCharles and Mud lakes.

High concentrations of phosphorus in lake sediments feed aquatic plants like the invasive species Eurasian water milfoil which makes boating and swimming difficult in many Sudbury lakes.

With the increased growth of these plants and algae, dissolved oxygen levels decline, which kill fish. Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

Where does phosphorus come from?

Sources include:  Poorly maintained septic systems  Lawn Fertilizers  Sewage treatment plant effluent  Atmosphere  Agriculture

Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

A Big Step in the Right Direction

ď “ The Canadian federal government

banned the sale of dishwasher detergents that contain phosphates on July 1, 2010.

Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

An easy solution to reduce the amount of phosphorus getting into our lakes?

 Excess phosphorus from chemical lawn

fertilizers gets washed into rivers and lakes. Restricting fertilizers that contain phosphorus and making fertilizers without phosphorus more widely available are easy ways to reduce the phosphorus reaching our lakes.  These “lake friendly” fertilizers with no

phosphorus (e.g. 30-0-10) are currently sold in some local hardware stores and cost about the same as other fertilizers. Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

Protecting all lakes in the City of Lakes

ď “ Many lakes in Sudbury are

used as drinking water sources and recreationally so a citywide bylaw should be adopted by Council to restrict fertilizers with phosphorus.

Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

What would a bylaw adopted by Council include?

 Sudbury residents would not use fertilizers with

phosphorus routinely. Fertilizers with phosphorus would not be displayed in stores. If a soil test demonstrates phosphorus is needed, consumers could purchase and use lawn fertilizer with phosphorus.  Other exemptions allow application of phosphorus

fertilizer when establishing a new lawn or laying sod since phosphorus is a nutrient which helps plants establish roots.  A bylaw would not affect vegetable gardens or flower

beds. Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

Other Areas that Have Adopted Bylaws and Businesses Have Not Suffered

Minnesota, Maine, New York, Florida, Wisconsin and New Jersey all have bylaws, which ban the use of lawn fertilizers with phosphorus. Theses laws affect approximately 60 million people. The GSWA has contacted many lawn care companies and hardware stores in these areas including Weed Man, Home Depot and Home Hardware. None have experienced a financial hardship and people just do not ask for phosphorus fertilizers.

In Manitoba, no fertilizers - not even low and zero phosphorus products – are permitted along waterways such as rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands and retention ponds. In these areas, defined setbacks must be observed: 

at least 30 metres along vulnerable lakes, such as Lake Winnipeg and Killarney Lake

at least 15 metres along all other lakes and vulnerable rivers, such as the Red and Assiniboine rivers

at least 3 metres along all other waterways Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

Details of Michigan’s law

As of January 1, 2010, prohibit the application of a fertilizer labeled as containing available phosphate to turf unless a test shows a phosphate deficiency or the turf is in its first growing season. (Generally speaking, the term "turf" refers to lawns. The bill's definition of turf specifically excludes all forms of agricultural production, including sod farms.)

Prohibit the application of a phosphate fertilizer on a golf course unless a test shows a phosphate deficiency or the golf course has an appropriate certification and trained staff.

Require the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) to post information about the bill's requirements on its website.

Require fertilizer spilled on an impervious surface (such as a street, sidewalk, or parking lot) to be promptly cleaned up.

Prohibit applying fertilizer to turf when the soil is frozen or saturated with water.

Allow local phosphate fertilizer ordinances to be maintained and enforced if in effect when the bill is enacted.

Designate violations as civil infractions with a maximum fine of $1,000 ($50 if the violation is committed on a single-family residential parcel (or other parcel with no more than four acres of turf) by the owner, renter, family member of the owner/renter, or by another person who lives on the property).

Prohibit retailers from displaying phosphate turf fertilizers as of January 1, 2011. Instead, retailers could post signs that tell customers this type of fertilizer is available upon request and about the restrictions on its use. (HB 5369).

Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

Are these laws enforceable and do they work to reduce phosphorus use?

In the U.S., enforcement of the law is the responsibility of local municipalities, cities, counties, and townships. Few, however, see enforcement as being practicable; most see that the law’s real value is in raising people’s awareness and making phosphorusfree lawn fertilizer widely available. A bylaw works better than no bylaw.

In that regard, the law is successful. People are more aware of the connection between phosphorus runoff and green lakes.

After 2 years, Minnesota’s law reduced phosphorus lawn fertilizer use by 82% and 97% of consumers support the law.

Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

The Bylaws are Working to Reduce Phosphorus Levels in Waterways

ď “ A research paper, published on Aug. 14, 2009, shows that

phosphorus levels in the Huron River dropped an average of 28 percent after Ann Arbor, Michigan adopted a bylaw in 2006 that curtailed the use of phosphorus fertilizers on lawns.

Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

City of Lakes

ď “ Lakes are the jewels of our community but

we need to be proactive to keep them that way. In the City of Lakes, we can continue to have more blue-green algae blooms, closed beaches and poor water quality or we can lead the way to protecting all our 330 lakes by adopting a simple, cost-effective bylaw to restrict the unnecessary use of lawn fertilizers with phosphorus. Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

ď “ The GSWA would like to present a proposal to the

Policy Committee requesting that Council adopt a bylaw restricting the use of fertilizers containing phosphorus across all of Greater Sudbury. We look forward to this opportunity. Thank you.

Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance


Study showing phosphorus causes blue-green algae blooms in Northern Ontario Manitoba wages war on phosphorus with fertilizer bans around rivers and lakes In 2002, Minnesota became the first state in the America to regulate phosphorus fertilizer use on lawns and turf Wisconsin has a turf fertilizer ban Maine restricts use of fertilizer with phosphorus with new law Florida has several county ordinances that prohibit the use of phosphorus in fertilizers

Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

References continued

Michigan’s turf phosphorus law.\ New York State has written a law restricting phosphorus in fertilizers to take effect 2012 Effects of Lawn Fertilizer on Nutrient Concentrations in Runoff from Lakeshore Lawns Water Quality Improves After Lawn Fertilizer Ban, Study Shows Phosphorus levels in the Huron River dropped an average of 28 percent after Ann Arbor, Michigan adopted an ordinance in 2006 that curtailed the use of phosphorus on lawns The Canadian Federal government bans phosphorus in dishwasher detergents July 1, 2010 Blue-Green algae clogs water treatment plant Aug. 2010 in Gagetown, New Brunswick reducing water quantity to army base Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance

GSWA Phosphorus and Blue-Green Algae 2011  

GSWA Phosphorus and Blue-Green Algae 2011

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