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posted: 7/4/2010 12:01 AM

New law to keep lawn chemicals out of rivers, lakes

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Gov. Quinn signed a new law Saturday that aims to keep Illinois waterways free from commercial lawn chemical runoff.

"It's the duty of everyone to provide and maintain a healthy environment for this and future generations," Quinn said during a ceremony in Elgin along the Fox River. "This is all about clean water and making sure it's available to everyone."

A number of suburban legislators co-sponsored the bill.

The law aims to prevent phosphorus-based fertilizers from getting into rivers and lakes.

Phosphorus encourages algae growth, which decreases oxygen levels in water and hurts fish.

In order for a lawn care service to apply a phosphorous fertilizer on a residential lawn, a phosphorous deficiency must be proven.

Such fertilizers also may not be applied to solid surfaces; spills must be cleaned thoroughly.

It can't be sprayed or applied by a rotary or drop spreader within three feet of a body of water. And it may not be applied when the ground is saturated or frozen, which would increase the likelihood of runoff.

Douglas Scott, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency director, said the safeguards in place in Illinois will aid rivers that feed into the Mississippi.

"This is an issue that the United States Environmental Protection Agency is looking at," he said. "Doing our part here doesn't just help us locally, it helps us nationally."

The legislation passed the General Assembly unanimously on June 3 and takes effect immediately.