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updated: 8/7/2012 4:24 PM

Gurnee joins other towns in ban on fertilizer phosphorus

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Fertilizer containing phosphorous no longer is welcome on Gurnee lawns in an effort to reduce how much of the nutrient gets into rivers, lakes and streams.

Village board trustees Monday night voted 6-0 in favor of an ordinance amendment banning the use of phosphorus fertilizer on grass. However, the prohibition doesn't apply to gardens, agricultural operators or sections of property that are considered phosphorous-deficient.

Gurnee joins Vernon Hills, Antioch, Lindenhurst, Long Grove and a smattering of other Lake County towns with local laws regarding fertilizer phosphorus. Gurnee's ordinance states a maximum fine of not more than $750 can be imposed for each violation, with the community development director in charge of enforcement.

Warren Township High School student Jessica Mitchell encouraged the village board to pursue a phosphorus ban when she spoke at a meeting in May. She told the elected officials it's not difficult to find phosphorus-free fertilizers, so the ordinance won't create an inconvenience for consumers.

"This is important, because phosphorous can be harmful to our waters," Mitchell said.

Proponents of such bans say excess phosphorus leaves a site through stormwater runoff and finds its way to lakes, streams, wetlands, ponds, and retention and detention areas. They say the nutrient makes waterways vulnerable to undesirable biological growth, such as weeds, and depletes oxygen in the water needed for organisms to survive.

"The village board of Gurnee desires to regulate the use of fertilizer containing phosphorus in order to protect the water quality in the rivers and bodies of water," the ordinance amendment states.

Research cited by Vernon Hills officials showed a pound of phosphorus can generate 350 pounds of algae.

Gurnee Village Engineer Scott Drabicki said he doesn't anticipate any problems with lawn-care companies resulting from the phosphorus ban.

"The commercial applicators already are on board with this," Drabicki said.

Retailers will be required to alert customers about the phosphorus prohibition on lawns or any other turf area by posting a sign within 10 feet of where fertilizer is sold.

Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said the phosphorus ban was on her list of 2012 goals.

In 2010, Wauconda officials decided against approving a phosphorus ordinance they contended would be difficult to enforce. Officials instead agreed to provide information to residents about how fertilizer containing phosphorus can cause weed growth in lakes.

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