Tuesday, November 22, 2011

And the award for most unusual award goes to...

It's a frisbee, it's a UFO, it's a...Secchi Disk!
Recently, Rep. Andy Billig had the opportunity to speak at the North American Lake Management Systems 31st Annual Symposium, held at the Spokane Convention Center on the banks of the Spokane River.

He discussed a highlight from the 2011 session: Passage of the “Clean Fertilizers, Healthier Lakes and Rivers” bill (HB 1489), which he sponsored. It regulates the sale and use of lawn fertilizer containing phosphorous, because businesses and local governments have spent millions on wastewater treatment upgrades to control phosphorous discharge into waterways. Phosphorous fuels algae growth which leads to a decline in dissolved oxygen levels in water bodies like Lake Spokane, endangering fish and other aquatic organisms. In some years, phosphorous promotes toxic algae blooms that can be lethal to pets and pose an immediate health hazard to humans.

After Rep. Billig's speech, the Washington Lake Protection Association honored him with their 2011 Secchi Disk Award. The award's inscription reads, “Thank you for keeping the P for Protection and not for phosphorous.”

What is a Secchi Disk? Created in 1865 by Pietro Angelo Secchi SJ, it's a circular disk used to measure water transparency in oceans and lakes. The disc is mounted on a pole or line, and lowered slowly down in the water. The depth at which the pattern on the disk is no longer visible is taken as a measure of the transparency of the water. Secchi disk measurements have been an integral component lake water quality assessment programs for some time, especially in Minnesota where lake residents make periodic measurements and submit their readings to state and local agencies.  With passage of HB 1489, Washington joined Minnesota and Michigan in strictly regulating phosphorous in lawn fertilizer in order to keep rivers and lakes healthier.