Efforts underway to limit fertilizer use and curb dangerous algal blooms in lakes and ponds – Boston 25 News
Dozens of ponds and lakes around the state are currently closed due to dangerous algae blooms.
Look closely at the surface of Santuit Pond in Mashpee, and bright green spots floating on the water are clearly evident. These are cyanobacteria for scientists, but the rest of us generally call them algae.
Whatever its name, when it is too abundant, it upsets the natural ecosystem of a body of water and puts it out of reach of humans and their pets. The Santuit pond has been closed since May.
“The prevalence of algal blooms potentially toxic to humans and pets has been more prevalent, for longer periods of the season, at a higher level of toxicity,” said Andrew Gottlieb, executive director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, a nonprofit that monitors water quality.
Cape Cod has been particularly affected by algae blooms, according to Gottlieb.
â€œBecause we live on a sandbank, because our soils are particularly porous, whatever we put in groundwater and septic effluent, sewage effluent, whatever we put on the ground in terms of ‘fertilizers and pesticides, find their way through the ground, into the underground and end up in our waterways,’ he said.
The high levels of nitrogen found in many popular fertilizers resemble steroids for algae. This prompted the Mashpee city manager to send a letter to homeowners last month, begging them to “stop applying fertilizer to grass and green spaces.”
Two Cape Cod lawmakers recently tabled a Beacon Hill bill to give communities more local control when it comes to reducing fertilizer use.
â€œEliminating them on their own is not enough to solve the problem,â€ Gottlieb said. â€œBut it’s an easy, free thing that we can all do. “
Growing a lush lawn or a colorful garden without fertilizer is not easy, but it is possible. Tess Matthews, the garden and nursery manager at Allandale Farm in Brookline, said a good way to start is to do a soil test.
â€œThat way you can really see what nutrients your soil is lacking, maybe too much, and then you can tailor your soil treatment to those results, instead of just using a generic fertilizer,â€ Matthews said.
Matthews recommends the laboratory at UMass Amherst. Another suggestion she has is to use native plants, which are more in tune with the local environment and need less help growing.
Matthews also said to consider planting a ground cover, like creeping thyme, instead of grass.
Finally, she said that people who think they still need to fertilize should use a slow-release biologic, as more of the nutrients end up in the plant and not drain.
Gottlieb said ponds and lakes are warming with climate change. It’s something like algae blooms and, he said, raises the stakes for timely action.
â€œWe can see the result of what’s going on in our waterways,â€ Gottlieb said. “We take a look at it and say if a green lawn gives you a green pond, is that really what is in the best interest of society?” “
The Cape Cod Preservation Association has a free interactive map This makes it easy to check the status of specific locations.
Boston 25 News contacted the National Association of Landscape Professionals and they provided this statement:
â€œAs an industry, we are committed to working with other organizations and governing bodies to improve water quality. Industry professionals are environmental stewards who are trained and licensed to use the most appropriate tool to manage the turf that creates healthy backyards, parks and public green spaces that Massachusetts residents include appreciate. Healthy turf benefits the environment by producing oxygen, cooling surrounding areas and sequestering carbon.
â€œThe turf systems that make up our lawns play an important role in filtering out multiple environmental pollutants, including nitrogen, before it reaches ground and surface water. Fertilizers are a tool that allows the grass to filter out pollutants.
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