MVC approves Island-wide special fertilizer overlay district

MVC approves Island-wide special fertilizer overlay district

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission  (MVC) voted unanimously Thursday, March 27, to approve the designation of an Island-wide special fertilizer district of critical planning concern (DCPC).

Voters in each Island town will be asked to adopt DCPC fertilizer regulations at town meetings beginning next week in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and West Tisbury. If adopted, the fertilizer control district will be the first of its kind on the Island.

The move to establish local fertilizer controls on the Vineyard is the result of legislation enacted by Massachusetts’ lawmakers in August, 2012, to standardize fertilizer regulation across the state to protect water quality and meet federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.

In an earlier conversation with The Times, MVC senior planner William Veno said that the state regulation is designed primarily to restrict the use of phosphorus based fertilizers to prevent runoff into rivers and other water bodies. Phosphorus is a major freshwater pollutant. The use of nitrogen, a major pollutant of saltwater estuaries, while not addressed in the state law, is included in the Island regulations.


  1. I was part of the group that drafted these regulations, and agree with
    the need for, and most of the content contained in the regs. I do,
    however, have several concerns that I think should be considered by all
    who will be affedted by this law before we rush to approve it. The
    following is a brief summary of my points.

    Why The Proposed Regulations
    Do Not Make Sense.

    How Much Will We Gain…Really
    Nitrates entering our salt ponds
    and the algae blooms they cause are of grave concern to all. Let’s look
    at how much we can expect to accomplish by the passing of the proposed
    turf fertilizer restrictions. As is commonly accepted knowledge,
    leaching and run-off of fertilizer contributes an estimated 5-15% of the
    nitrates that enter our watersheds and ponds. The remaining 85-95% is
    from the leaching of sewage. We are being picked on because we are “The
    low hanging fruit,” easy to target. Let’s assume that this legislature
    cuts the amount of our impact by 100%. Even at 100% reduction of input
    from turf, 85-95% of the problem still exists. As more homes and septic
    systems are constructed, the negligible gain will soon be overshadowed.
    Despite all that, I am still in favor of regulation, and more
    importantly, education. But, the legislature has to make sense.

    Does It?
    The proposed maximum application rate is .5 Lb of
    Nitrogen per 1000 sq ft with a maximum annual application of 3 Lbs per
    1000 sq/ft. There is a substantial and fundamental problem with this.
    Most “Combination Products” on the market today, (Fertilizers that have a
    pesticide, usually an herbicide or insecticide, bonded to it, eg Scotts
    Step Program,) are labeled with an application rate of 1 Lb of Nitrogen
    per 1000 sq/ft. If you cut the application rate in half, as proposed by
    this bill, you also reduce the pesticide rate by half. At half labeled
    rates, most of these applications will be completely ineffective on the
    targeted pest, and will be effective only in building resistance to the
    pesticides. (What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.) This will
    inevitably lead to additional pesticide applications. This legislature,
    as written, would encourage the irresponsible use of pesticides. This
    is, perhaps, a more troubling scenario than the nitrogen loading being
    addressed. The Regulations would also prohibit the use of Corn Gluten at
    labeled rates. Corn Gluten is the cornerstone of many Organic turf
    programs and is used to target the emergence of Crabgrass and other
    weeds. Again, at the proposed rates, it will be completely ineffective.
    While there is a provision to allow 2 applications per year at a higher
    .75 Lb per 1000 sq/ft. rate, the specific timing that is being mandated
    may or may not coincide with the turf manager’s needs on any given
    property or situation. In fact, the preferred time of year for fall turf
    repair and feeding typically begins around August 15th. The language in
    this bill prevents any application over .5 Lbs until Sept 1st. Can
    someone give me a logical explanation as to the benefits of this

    The limits that are proposed within the buffer Zone are extremely low
    and will lead to a thinning of turf in these areas which will increase
    leaching, run-off and erosion. Exactly the opposite of the goal.
    Further, many people, homeowners & landscapers, may be unable to
    properly apply fertilizers at such low volumes.

    The proposed addition of a “Buffer Strip of Native Vegetation” will
    be less effective at filtering nutrients and contaminates than the turf
    removed. Agin, this will increase, not decrease the nutrient loading

    The penalty structure, as proposed, is a joke. This thing has no teeth.

    So, what we have is a piece of legislature that attempts to gain
    broad, voluntary acceptance and adoption. And yet, it does not allow for
    people to work with products and commonly accepted practices within the
    industry. It is restrictive beyond what is necessary and more apt to be
    disregarded by most as Bull&$@#.

    What I Would Propose As An Alternative
    Simplifying the wording,
    and allowing up to .75 Lb Nitrogen per application while maintaining the
    3 Lb per year annual cap would create a flexibility that would more
    closely satisfy the needs of many, while still achieving a reduction in
    overall Nitrogen application. It would allow the users of Scott’s or
    other similar programs to apply all four steps at 3/4 labeled rates.
    Although this is still not perfect, and still leaves pesticide rates
    below recommendations, it would be a more responsible rate with a
    greater chance of delivering results. And, this would satisfy the annual
    maximum restriction. (4 X .75 = 3.0) It would allow the casual
    home-owner to make 3 applications per year, (Average number of
    applications made by the homeowner,) with the total of applied nitrogen
    at 2.25 Lbs. Far below the limit. It would give the professional turf
    managers the flexibility to do their jobs effectively and deliver a
    quality product to their clients while still reducing the total amount
    of nitrogen applied by at least 25%.

    Require ANYONE, homeowner or professional, that wishes to apply
    nitrogen within the buffer zone to obtain a license. This is an
    extremely sensitive area and anyone working within this area should be
    required to prove some degree of knowledge and proficiency. Delete the
    requirement to install vegetative buffer strips and allow 2 Lbs.

    And finally, as it will prove difficult or impossible to monitor and
    enforce this legislature, the penalty structure needs to be such that it
    becomes somewhat self-policing. The penalty HAS TO outweigh the
    temptation to “cheat.”

    I implore all stakeholders to push for these changes before it
    becomes a failed piece of legislation…a law we cannot live with.

    Steven Anagnos
    Lawn Care Pros, LLC

  2. No sweat! Lets see em regulate this one. No they wont be allowed on the property.
    This would be considered a civil matter. Can’t get a warrant to enter!
    Why don’t we address real issues on the Island ! Like, homeless, low rent rentals,
    Drug and alcohol abuse, healthcare! These are the real issues plaguing the Vineyard.