Pinellas County adopts fertilizer ordinance
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01/20/10 Andrea Lypka
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Pinellas County Commission adopted a fertilizer ordinance on January 19. Fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus are being regulated because they affect water quality.

The ban on summertime use of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers passed 6-1 with only Commissioner Nancy Bostock opposed. The ordinance forbids the sale of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers beginning May 1, 2011, the application of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers during the rainy season from June 1 to September 30 and requires that 50 percent of nitrogen use has to be slow-release fertilizer. “No retail establishment can sell fertilizer beginning May 1, 2011 during the restricted season from June 1 to September 30,” Pinellas County’s director of Environmental Management, Will Davis said.

The ordinance also requires training and certification of landscape companies and it is more comprehensive than similar ordinances adopted by Gulfport and St. Petersburg, Davis said. “It is more inclusive with regard to the retail ban but the restriction period is the same.”

According to Davis, slow release nitrogen fertilizers are less likely to cause red tide. “There was a recent study that shows if slow release products are put down prior to the restriction period will hold the turf through the summer,” he said.

Assistant county attorney Jewel White Cole says this means tougher regulation than the state model ordinance passed in 2009. “The Senate Bill 494 also did though there is no one size fits all approach does not work for every local government in Florida. It provided that certain local governments measures to adopt additional more stringent measures that they can meet certain criteria set forth in the state statute,” she said. Cole said similar ordinances banning retail sales that have been adopted in other states do not restrict commerce.

“A federal district, I believe Wisconsin looked at the similar ordinance, it was a phosphorus based regulation and since the regulation was not intended to restrict commerce but it was intended to preserve water quality, they had no problem with it,” she said.

But opponents of the ordinance think differently. One of them is Dan Gerber of the landscaping company Truegreen who says that stricter rules would negatively impact their businesses, consumers and employment.

Phil Compton, regional representative of the Sierra Club, said that while nitrogen fertilizers costs about $5 at the hardware store, it costs communities $235 per pound of nitrogen to remove it from the waterways. The fertilizer ban would cost taxpayers less money on the long run like it happened in Sarasota where a similar ordinance was adopted.

Fourteen communities in Florida including St. Petersburg, Gulfport and Naples have adopted fertilizer and landscape ordinances.

study: Unintended Consequences Associated with Certain Urban Fertilizer Ordinances

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