Walmart Fined Over Fertilizer Sales

Enforcing our laws can lead to change. Photo by Albany Times Union.

Mega retailer Walmart was fined $98,000 by New York State for selling phosphorus fertilizer without appropriate signage. As a result, and to avoid future such fines, Walmart has agreed to remove all phosphorus lawn fertilizer from its store shelves. The law restricting the use of phosphorus fertilizer on lawns went into effect in New York in 2012. The Lake Champlain Committee successfully lobbied for passage of the legislation in both New York and Vermont and collaborated on an educational campaign to raise awareness of pollution from excess lawn fertilizer. The law prohibits the application of phosphorus fertilizers except in certain circumstances. Fertilizer with phosphorus may be applied to new lawns (or non-agricultural turf in the first growing season in New York) or if a soil test indicates a phosphorus deficiency. It also requires retailers to display phosphorus fertilizer separately from phosphorus-free fertilizer and post signs notifying customers of the use restrictions. A statewide investigation led by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman found 16 of the 18 Walmart stores inspected out of compliance with the law. The 18 Walmart stores investigated were in Albany (2), Chautauqua (2), Erie (6), Nassau (3), Niagara (2), Rensselaer (1), Rockland (1), and Westchester (1) counties. As part of the settlement agreement, Walmart will no longer sell phosphorus lawn fertilizer at their stores, Sam’s Club stores, or over the internet in New York State. This is believed to be the first voluntary agreement not to sell phosphorus fertilizers in the United States.

While Vermont has similar regulations about the sale and use of phosphorus fertilizer which went into effect at the same time, they have not announced any results of store inspections to ensure compliance. Download our flier for tips on how to keep a lawn healthy without harming waterways.