Soap or shit? Which is worse for our lakes?


It’s good to see that another environmental cause will be advanced this legislative session, and more importantly, it’s good to hear that my health won’t be so severely threatened each time I take a dip in Lake Wingra. The algae problem has become a recurrent theme in Madison summer recreation – last summer Wingra was occassionally closed off because of it. Assembly Democrats are looking to do something about it with the introduction of new regulations on dish soap, which will limit the amount of phosphorus in the product. Phosphorus is the main ingredient in algae, at least according to one of my former writers, Zach Schuster:

Phosphorus is not capable of destroying human society via atomic fission, but it does serve as the primary nutrient in freshwater lakes. Think of it as the free pizza of the water chemistry world. Just as free pizza causes attendance at student organization meetings to flourish, phosphorus nourishes algae and causes it to grow like crazy in the lakes where it accumulates.

But dish soap isn’t the main problem.

The primary source of phosphorus in the Yahara lakes watershed is kind of a crappy subject. Literally. Phosphorus is a major component of both human and animal shit. Traditionally, both human waste, in the form of wastewater discharged into streams, and animal waste, in the form of manure spread on fields as fertilizer, were substantial sources of the phosphorus that eventually reached the lakes.

So far the Republicans have voted in favor of the plan unanimously. They proposed one amendment and have tried to get the bill delayed by suspending the rules and trying to get the bill re-read, however, all Republicans on the Natural Resources Committee have voted in favor. Furthermore the GOP gave full support to the plan in February to restrict phosphorus in fertilizers.


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