The Winnetka Village Council will be discussing a limited ban on phosphorus recommended by the Winnetka Environmental and Forestry Commission.

Several council members believe that reducing the amount of phosphorus in our stormwater run-off will probably increase the chance the Cook County Forest Preserve will accept that stormwater from us.  Phosphorus absorption is also one of the main purposes of the wetlands proposed by Strand in Duke Childs and Crow Island Woods, so reducing Phosphorus via edict may reduce the need for the most contentious parts of that plan.

Here is the WEFC’s summary of the proposed ordinance MC-1-2017:

As the Village Council continues to address stormwater flooding, water quality has also been an important consideration. Phosphorus, a naturally occurring element, is a key indicator of water quality, and is also an essential plant nutrient. While phosphorus is naturally occurring, it is often not accessible to plants in sufficient quantities, and it is therefore a common component in fertilizers. Phosphorus is necessary for healthy plant growth, but too much phosphorus can also degrade water quality by spurring excessive growth of algae and other aquatic plants, depleting dissolved oxygen and reducing biodiversity. While runoff from large-scale agricultural areas produces most excess phosphorus loading on a national scale, phosphorus-based lawn fertilizers are a significant contributor to excess phosphorus in waterways located in urbanized watersheds. In northeastern Illinois, both Lake Michigan and the Skokie River are included in the Illinois EPA’s list of impaired waters for phosphorus. Stormwater sampling conducted in late 2014 as part of the Willow Road Stormwater Tunnel and Area Drainage Improvement (STADI) project also indicated that phosphorus was present in the Village’s stormwater discharges to both Lake Michigan and the Skokie River.

As directed by the Village Council, the Environmental and Forestry Commission (EFC) began researching phosphorus prohibitions in July, evaluating current full or partial prohibitions at the state and local level. At least 12 states, including Illinois, have full or partial bans on phosphorus in fertilizers. Illinois’ ban – a partial ban – applies to “applicators-for-hire” (i.e. Tru-Green, Chemlawn, etc. and landscaping contractors), but does not apply to individual property owners. As a result, many Illinois communities have enacted local bans that extend to individual property owner applications. Mundelein, Grayslake, Gurnee, Antioch, Libertyville, Round Lake Park, Round Lake Beach, Vernon Hills, Lindenhurst, and the Barrington Area Council of Governments have all enacted local bans on phosphorus-containing fertilizers. These bans include several common features:

  1. ¬†The bans apply to everyone, not just commercial “applicators-for hire”. Individuals are also prohibited from applying phosphorus-containing fertilizers.
  2. Many bans feature exceptions for certain uses where phosphorus use is necessary, such as newly installed lawn areas, vegetable gardens, and locations where soil tests indicate insufficient natural phosphorus.
  3. Many bans require signs communicating the prohibition at locations within the affected jurisdiction where fertilizers are sold.

After reviewing many of these local ordinances, the EFC and staff developed the text of Ordinance No. MC-1-2017, attached. Section A provides definitions of commercial applicators, non-commercial applicators, and fertilizer, for the purpose of clarifying these terms for this requirement. Section B prohibits the application of phosphorus-containing fertilizers, except naturally occurring phosphorus in organic fertilizers suck a manure, compost, or mulched yard waste. Section B also provides several exemptions, including areas where soil testing indicates a deficiency of naturally occurring phosphorus, flower beds and vegetable gardens, newly installed lawn/turf areas, and direct injection treatments for new or distressed trees. Section C prohibits application of any fertilizer on impermeable surfaces, within drainage ditches, in or within 20 feet of waterways, and in any wetland or buffer areas. Section D requires display of educational signage at retailers selling fertilizers within the Village limits.

If this Ordinance is adopted, staff will provide notice via the Village website, e-Winnetka, the Winnetka Report, by mail to area landscape contractors, and by brochures located at area retailers, Village and affiliated facilities.

For more information about this proposal, and what other nearby communities are doing, download the Tuesday Agenda.

Village Council to Discuss Lawn Phosphorus Ban Tuesday Night