Lawn Fertilizer Initiative
On January 29th 2014, the Martha's Vineyard Boards of Health held a joint public hearing to discuss the draft proposed Board of Health regulations of fertilizer used to grow lawns and other turf on Martha’s Vineyard.
The purpose of the guidelines and regulations is to prevent excessive nutrient loading in the Vineyard's groundwater and great pond estuaries that results from inappropriate application of fertilizers. Between 5 to 15 percent of the controllable excess nitrogen in the Vineyard ponds is attributable to fertilizer use. Establishing local standards for regulation of fertilizer will retain an important tool of the towns to confront the nitrogen pollution of Vineyard waters.
In the fall of 2013, more than a dozen town and MVC officials, private business people and non-profit representatives – all with an interest in water quality – met numerous times to develop Vineyard-base guidelines and regulations of fertilizer use. As required, the group used UMass Extension's published Best Management Practices to help guide development of standards for the appropriate timing and amount of fertilizer application for various situations on the Vineyard.
The draft regulations establish maximum fertilization thresholds for lawns, golf courses and areas near water resources. They also set up an educational and licensing procedure to ensure a standard of care. The educational component is thought to be the most effective mechanism to change fertilization practices that will improve Vineyard water quality.
Adoption of fertilizer regulations tailored to the Vineyard will prevent the imposition by the Commonwealth of statewide regulations that are under development. The state law requiring the establishment of statewide fertilizer regulations also allows Cape and Island communities a window of opportunity to adopt regulations under the enabling acts of their regional planning agencies, which means through the District of Critical Planning Concern (DCPC) process. Towns that do not adopt local fertilizer regulations will be subject to the statewide regulations. As of this date, the state has yet to release a draft version of the statewide fertilizer regulations.
In addition to the January 29 joint hearing, each Board of Health will hold an individual hearing in its town in February. At least one public hearing before the MVC will also be part of the DCPC process. The regulations will be put before each town for adoption at this spring’s annual town meetings.
Questions should be directed to town health agents or to Bill Veno at the MVC.
William (Bill) Veno, AICP
Martha's Vineyard Commission