Do They Get It Now? Don't P on the Lawn!

Retailers pay for fertilizer violations.

Lowes and Home Depot recently reached settlement agreements with the New York Attorney General for violations of a 2010 state law designed to reduce pollution from phosphorus lawn fertilizer. The settlements are based on the results of a 2014 investigation by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that found 90% of Home Depot stores – 19 of 21 – and Lowe’s stores – 16 of 18 – in New York inspected by his office had one or more alleged violations of the law, either displaying phosphorus-containing lawn fertilizers without the required signage or failing to display phosphorus-containing lawn fertilizers separately from phosphorus-free fertilizers or both.

Home Depot will pay $78,000 and Lowe’s will pay $52,000, in penalties to New York State for the alleged violations. The settlements also require Home Depot and Lowe’s to bring their stores in New York into full compliance with the Nutrient Runoff Law, including providing required signage and displaying fertilizers containing phosphorous separately from phosphorous-free fertilizers. Further, to assist the state in assessing the effectiveness of the law, Home Depot is required to compile and disclose several years of past and future data related to their sales of fertilizers in New York.

This settlement follows on the heels of a similar settlement with Wal-Mart last spring. In that case, Walmart paid $98,000 in fines and chose to comply with the law by removing phosphorus-containing fertilizers from their shelves and ceasing internet sales to consumers in New York. Vermont has a law very similar to the regulation in New York, but has not been as aggressive about enforcing it. LCC actively advocated for the legislation in both states and commends the New York Attorney General's office for their active enforcement. Phosphorus is added to fertilizer to promote plant growth, but most soils in the Champlain Basin have enough, or an excess of phosphorus. Addition of phosphorus to waters through leaching or erosion contributes to algae blooms.