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'Don't 'P' in the Lake'

Meredith aims to keep local lakes pesticide and phosphorous free

Sixth graders Julia Eifert, Samantha Oakley, and Elizabeth Brennan speak in favor of the town’s “Don’t ‘P’ in the Lake” campaign. Erin Plummer. (click for larger version)
April 28, 2010
MEREDITH — The town, school district, and several businesses have promised to keep the lakes "P-free" by not using phosphorous or pesticides in landscaping.

Local officials and businesspeople gathered on Wednesday for a press conference in the lawn of Church Landing to announce an ongoing effort to utilize more natural lawncare practices.

The town and the Inter-Lakes School District have joined several local businesses in pledging not to use pesticides and only use organic fertilizers not containing phosphorous. This is being done to keep local waterbodies safe from potential harm caused by chemicals and high phosphorous levels, especially in Meredith Bay and Lake Waukewan.

Possible results of high phosphorous and pesticide levels include the growth of milfoil and other exotic weeds as well as the appearance of toxic algae blooms.

The "Don't 'P' in the Lake" campaign will raise awareness of the potential danger of using pesticides and phosphorous-containing fertilizers around waterbodies.

The effort began with a subcommittee of the Waukewan Watershed Committee named the Lawn Care Committee looking into the connections between certain methods of lawn care and increased amounts of phosphorous as well as recent algae blooms.

"(You are) not only feeding your lawn but are also feeding algae blooms and pests in the lakes," said Lawn Care Committee Chair Randy Eifert, saying algae blooms have been found in both Lake Waukewan and Meredith Bay.

Eifert said what ever is being put in the lake now flows downstream to neighbors.

"The town is totally committed to doing as much as possible to slow this process and keep this a wonderful place to live," said Meredith Selectman Nathan Torr, saying education is going to be a significant part of the work.

Meredith Parks and Recreation Director Vint Choiniere said more research was going into working on the lawns of parks and playing fields in a way that used no phosphorous and chemicals.

"Our user groups are very happy with the playing surface," Choiniere said. Choiniere said chemical controls have been used on Meredith lawns. "Now is the time for us to go ahead and make that transition; phosphorous-free fertilizer and certainly no chemical controls will be used on our properties."

Realgreen Lawncare, LLC is one local landscaping company providing organic lawn services.

"We want to make people understand we're not discouraging lawns by any means," said Real Green owner Dan Harris. "Utilization of techniques for your lawn can improve the quality of your lawn without (utilizing) a bag of fertilizer. The most simple thing for your lawn is to do a soil test."

Harris said those who work on their lawn can also look for fertilizer bags that list zero phosphorous content. Most area lawns have enough nutrients to support grass growth and fertilizer should be used on an as-needed basis.

"Use something culturally or biologically that can solve the problem," Harris said. "As an individual, really know what your lawn needs before just throwing something down." Harris said success in this endeavor would come "at the end of the day if people are more concerned about the impact their lawns have rather than just a bag of fertilizer."

Rusty McClear, principal of Hampshire Hospitality Holdings, said the company's properties will only use organic fertilizer and will not use pesticides. McLear said thousands of dollars and many hours of work are spent to keep the lawns "as attractive as possible" to guests and local people. McLear said the ultimate goal is to protect the lakes.

"It's not the building, frankly, it's not the lawn, it's the lake," McLear said. "The quality of lakes impacts every business and every individual. (This group) as a public/private partnership is one of the best I've seen."

After the presentation, a soil test was done on the lawn at Church Landing.

Meredith Village Savings Bank is another business that will use chemical free and organic lawn care.

"We're beginning to take steps to become more ecologically friendly," said Alison Whynot, assistant vice president of Meredith Village Savings Bank and Chair of the bank's Green Committee. "Meredith Village Savings Bank is making the commitment to be phosphorous free. We are proud to be making these changes and we hope other businesses will join us in this."

Henry Lipman, executive vice president and CFO of LRGHealthcare commended the public/private partnership.

"Water quality is important from an economic standpoint, but also from a public health standpoint," Lipman said. "Public health is about prevention. I think this effort is commendable to prevent economic (problems) and health issues. A deterioration of the water quality of the area would have a significant impact on the status of our socio-economic community at large."

Jared Teutsch, president of the New Hampshire Lakes Association, said legislation has been proposed to ban the use of phosphorous products from around watersheds. Teutsch said New Hampshire soils are already rich in phosphorous and do not need additional applications.

"We look forward to extending this beyond Meredith," Teutsch said.

Jack Terrill, president of Lakes Region United Way, read a letter from the United Way's Board of Directors that voiced support for the effort for the local environment and economy.

Julia Eifert, Elizabeth Brennan, and Samantha Oakley, all sixth graders at Inter-Lakes Middle Tier, also read a letter in support of the effort.

"Pesticide free in the Lakes Region means we want to swim in the non-polluted lake," Brennan read from the letter.

For more information of the effort, call Angela LeBrecque from the town of Meredith at 677-4228. The effort is also on Facebook at Lakes Region Pesticide Free and signs and pamphlets will be distributed.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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