Research shows that nutrient-rich runoff from lawns can cause excess algae growth in streams, lakes, and estuaries, while pesticide runoff can contaminate drinking water supplies with chemicals toxic to both humans and aquatic organisms. (Source: EPA).

Landscapers can reduce the adverse effects of fertilizer and pesticides on local waterways by following these best management practices:

Material Storage

  • All fertilizers and pesticides, as well as gas and oil for machinery, should be stored in appropriate containers that don’t leak.
  • Any excess chemical spills should be cleaned up immediately. Use a broom for dry chemicals and absorbents (such as granular clay or kitty litter) for liquids.
  • Store all containers holding powder and liquid materials under cover to protect from rain and snow.
  • Use secondary containment devices or construct dikes/curbs to contain any possible leaks.
  • Always keep containers closed and secure.
  • Store soil and mulch piles in contained areas where they cannot be washed into the storm drainage system. When these materials are transported for use on site, store them on the lot and out of the street where they won’t be washed into the street and storm drain system with overspray from irrigation or stormwater.

Fertilizers, Herbicides and Pesticides

  • Use organic fertilizer whenever possible.  Organic or slow-release nitrogen fertilizer lessens the chance that excess nutrients will run off your lawn during rain storms.
  • Be sure to use fertilizer with no phosphorus unless you have a soil test saying it's needed—phosphorus causes algae growth in water.
  • Limit the use of lawn chemicals and always follow directions.  Use the smallest amount necessary.
  • If you are having problems with a particular lawn, don’t keep adding chemicals.  Have the soil tested by UMass Extension.
  • Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for safe use and disposal of any lawn products.
  • Apply products only at optimal times for the specific application, which are defined on the product's label.

Equipment Maintenance

  • Inspect vehicles and equipment for leaks regularly. Fix problems as soon as possible.
  • When draining fluids, use a drip pan and/or funnel to prevent any spills.
  • Keep a cleanup kit of safety equipment and absorbent material, such as granular clay or kitty litter for spills.
  • Never clean streets or sidewalks using a hose. Instead, use a broom and properly dispose of sweepings.

Cleaners and Solvents

  • Whenever possible, use detergent-based or water-based cleaning systems instead of organic solvent de-greasers.
  • Use products labeled “non-toxic” and “readily biodegradable.”
  • Read labels carefully and follow directions. Also, dispose of any unused portions properly.