Fertilizer rules will improve water quality Island-wide

Fertilizer rules will improve water quality Island-wide

To the Editor:

This letter makes the case that, however small a step, the upcoming fertilizer regulations will help protect Vineyard waters and lessen the price tag of dealing with the nitrogen problem. Protecting the Vineyard environment and character is consistently viewed as a high priority by 95 percent of year-round and seasonal residents. Protecting drinking water and the quality of water in our coastal ponds tops the list. The fertilizer bylaw coming before town meetings is a great opportunity to add to that protection.

The regulation is the result of a window of opportunity offered by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Agricultural Resources to pass rules tailored to our local conditions and needs. The alternative will be less beneficial rules imposed by the state.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission provided its planning services through the district of critical planning concern process to create identical regulations, to be promulgated by all town boards of health, and hopefully endorsed by voters. The process has been well thought out and is worthy of endorsement. It has been a remarkable joint effort involving elected officials, health agents, local landscapers, golf course managers, the UMass Extension scientists, and many members of the community.

Why bother with lawn fertilizer? Five to 10 percent of the nitrogen that fertilizes our ponds and impairs our shellfish and other natural resources comes from lawns. Regulating lawn fertilizer therefore makes sense and is an inexpensive way to address one piece of our water protection challenge. It will raise public awareness, inform homeowners about best practices for managing their own lawns, and build momentum for tackling the much bigger challenge of dealing with nitrogen from conventional septic systems.

Brendan O’Neill

Executive Director

Vineyard Conservation Society