As the winter weather begins to break around New York State, lots of homeowners will begin to focus on revitalizing their yards. If fertilizing your lawn is on your list of home to-do projects this spring and summer, New York warns you that you must make sure your fertilizer is legal. The Nutrient Runoff Law, which went into effect on January 1, 2012, says,

No person shall apply or authorize any person by way of service contract or other arrangement to apply in this state any phosphorus fertilizer on lawn or non-agricultural turf.

There are a couple of exceptions to the law, when,

- A soil test indicates that additional phosphorus is needed for growth of that lawn or non-agricultural turf; or
- The phosphorus fertilizer is used for newly established lawn or non-agricultural turf during the first growing season.

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To make sure you are in compliance with the law you'll need to check the bag for the three numbers that show the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Choose a fertilizer with a "0" value for phosphorus (the middle number).

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The United States Environmental Protection Agency says that the runoff from fertilizers can lead to "dead zones" in bodies of water. High levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, both of which are in lawn fertilizers, can cause eutrophication, killing fish and aquatic life.

Phosphorus is one of the leading causes of water pollution. Even if you live far from a water body, excess phosphorus from your lawn can wash off and pollute lakes and streams, harming fish and ruining boating and swimming. More than 100 water bodies in New York State cannot be used for drinking, fishing or swimming because they contain too much phosphorus.

If you get caught breaking New York's Nutrient Runoff Law, you may end up having to pay a fine:

For an owner, owner's agent, or occupant of a household, the penalties are: issuance of a written warning with educational materials for a first violation; a fine of up to $100 for a second violation; and fines up to $250 for subsequent violations. The penalties for all others are: a fine up to $500 for a first of violation; and fines up to $1000 for subsequent offenses.

You can find more information here.

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