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Lawns are Adding to Chesapeake Bay Pollution, Study Says

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Maryland requires cities and farms to keep a close eye on nutrient runoff in the Chesapeake Bay, but a study released Monday says the state doesn't pay enough attention to another major source of bay pollution: you and your thick, green lawn.

Grassy turf, not farmland, is the most dominant crop in the bay watershed. There were almost 1.3 million acres of planted turf in Maryland in 2009, compared with 1.5 million acres of all other crops, says the study by the Environment Maryland Research and Policy Center.

"Yet it is the least regulated of the state's major crops," the study says. That, the study says, has to change.

The study calls on Maryland to consider following other states, such as New York and New Jersey, which recently banned the use of fertilizers with phosphorous and imposed buffer zones around bodies of water.

"All 17 million of us who live in the watershed need to be part of the restoration effort," said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.). Not just wastewater facilities, municipalities and farmers, he said, but "homeowners and businesses also need to be part of the solution by reducing the chemicals we put on our lawns and other green spaces."

Pollution in the bay increases when nutrients wash into its waters from snow and rainfall. And many lawn fertilizers have an excess of two problematic nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorous.

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