Senate OKs pair of Pridemore bills

Both aim to protect the environment

By Kathie Durbin, Columbian staff writer

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State Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, has won Senate victories on two significant pieces of environmental legislation.

Senate Bill 6289 would largely phase out the use of fertilizers containing phosphorous on lawns by 2012 to protect water quality in lakes, streams and Puget Sound. The bill, which Pridemore prime-sponsored, passed the Senate 36-11 on Friday despite concerns from fertilizer manufacturers. It gained the support of Republican Senators Joe Zarelli of Ridgefield and Don Benton of Vancouver.

Phosphorus is a nutrient that in excessive amounts can promote the growth of algae, which rob water of dissolved oxygen.

Under the bill, after Jan. 1, 2012, it would become illegal to apply fertilizers containing phosphorus to lawns or turf, with some exceptions. The definition of fertilizer was amended in committee to exclude materials derived from organic waste and manure from combined animal feeding operations.

Supporters called the bill a reasonable, common-sense approach to addressing a serious water pollution problem. Opponents, including farm, forestry and landscape interests, said they would prefer a national approach to the issue and pointed out that phosphorus loading can come from other sources, including failing septic tanks.

The bill goes to the House.

Senate Bill 5543, also prime-sponsored by Pridemore, establishes a program to encourage consumers to recycle fluorescent light bulbs, which are energy-efficient but contain mercury, a known neurotoxin.

“When we release (mercury) into the environment, it can damage the human nervous system and cardiovascular, system as well as the environment at large,” Pridemore said in a statement.

The bill would require manufacturers of the bulbs to pay annual fees to the Department of Ecology, which would contract with an independent organization to recycle them. The contractor would be required to register, maintain a spill response plan, and use packaging and shipping materials that minimize the release of mercury in the environment.

In 2006, Pridemore shepherded legislation that made Washington a national leader in the recycling of computers and other electronics that contain hazardous materials. He said the bulb-recycling program would work much the same way.

“This lets us keep one more dangerous substance out of the environment and reduce our exposure,” he said.

The measure passed the Senate on Monday on a 37-9 vote with both Zarelli and Benton voting in favor. It is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday in the House Committee on Environmental Health.