Tampa council approves fertilizer ban
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06/23/11 Kate Bradshaw
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

Tampa City Council approved an ordinance banning the sale of nitrogen and phosphorous lawn fertilizers during the rainy season. Environmentalists like Sierra Club field organizer Cris Costello hailed the measure as key environmental protection.

She said this makes Tampa the largest city in the state to adopt such a law. Supporters were time-pressed to get the measure passed. State lawmakers passed a law during session creating a statewide fertilizer policy for Florida cities and counties that don’t have a ban in place by July First – that’s next Friday. Critics at today’s hearing – mostly paid representatives of the landscaping and fertilizer industries – said the council was acting too hastily. Extensive Enterprises spokesperson Jennifer Lux said the city should take time to review documents the council received from the state Department of Environmental protection and two other agencies a few minutes before the hearing.

Dozens of cities and counties have banned rainy season application of certain fertilizers because they say unchecked application causes the products to wash into waterways during storms and cause harmful algae blooms. Ban proponents said there are plenty of healthier alternatives, and they’re already on the shelves. Green landscaper Troy Springer said Tampa Bay’s waterways shouldn’t suffer for the benefit of the few.

Critics countered that lost dollars in fertilizer sales translates to lost jobs. William Womack of Tampa Bay Landscaping said the ban wouldn’t be effective, since it only bars sales within city limits – not application.

Democratic activist Pat Kemp, a WMNF programmer and wife of the station’s program manger, said the Gulf dead zone, an annual occurrence at the mouth of the Mississippi, is predicted to be the biggest ever this summer, and experts blame it on nutrient fertilizer runoff. She said the sale ban can also work as an educational tool for consumers.

Council member Larry Cohen agreed.

The ban passed six-to-one, just as it did on first reading. The one dissenting vote was that of council member Frank Reddick, who said he’s extremely concerned about the ban’s economic impact.

Council member Mary Mulhern, who originally proposed the ordinance, said the rule is effective July First, but the ban wouldn’t start until summer 2012. This, she said, give affected businesses plenty of time to adjust.

The council also unanimously voted to instruct the legal department to investigate all potential impacts of the ban within the next 90 days. The ban the legislature passed, which critics say is weak, goes into effect July First.

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