Sen. Knudson hesitant to endorse repeal of phosphorus limits

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah lawmaker wants to repeal limits on phosphorus in detergents, because of complaints that the restrictions reduce cleaning power.Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, said treatment plants can now remove the nutrient, so the environmental benefits of a limit are minimal.Commercial uses are exempted from the restrictions, Sandstrom said, further reducing the impact.”The ban was used to appease certain environmental groups. It hasn’t really been proven” as beneficial, he said.The limits prompted dozens of constituent complaints about spotty dishes with a white film, Sandstrom said.Utah passed a law in 2008 limiting the amount of phosphate in dish soap and laundry detergents. In the past four years, 16 other states passed similar legislation.The law’s effective date was delayed in those states until July 1 to give detergent makers time to produce phosphate-free detergents.Walt Baker, director of the Utah Division of Water Quality, said limits are “beneficial” to Utah waterways.Phosphate prompts algae growth. When the algae dies, oxygen is depleted in the water. That can ruin fish habitats, give drinking water a foul taste and make streams, rivers and lakes murky.Newer waste water treatment plants can remove nutrients such as algae, Baker said. But very few have been built, and older ones cannot remove nutrients.Phosphate doesn’t make dishes cleaner, but it softens water, Baker said. The white film is the result of minerals from Utah’s hard water.Baker uses a phosphate-free dish soap that softens water with enzymes and eliminates the white film.”It’s mostly an education issue, because there are alternatives,” he said.Sen. Pete Knudson, R-Brigham City, the Senate sponsor of the 2008 legislation, said the limits made sense because of the environmental benefits. But he had no idea the limits would reduce the effectiveness of detergents.”It seemed like an environmental victory that we could enter into without consequences,” he said. “I had no idea it would make things more difficult for housewives who like to have clean dishes and white linens.”Knudson was hesitant to endorse the repeal, however, until he reviewed the environmental impacts.

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