St. Pete fertilizer ordinance clears first hurdle

03/05/09 Seán Kinane
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St. Petersburg is one step closer to passing ordinances to cut down on fertilizer pollution that runs off into Tampa Bay and other bodies of water.

This morning City Council passed on first reading a modified form of a fertilizer ordinance created as a model that can be adopted by all local governments.

Because nitrogen and phosphorous in lawn fertilizers run off into the Bay and cause algae blooms, fish kills, and other environmental disasters, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program created a model fertilizer ordinance last year. It calls for a ban on the use of nitrogen and phosphorous in fertilizers during the summer rainy season.

Jamie Bennett is the St. Petersburg City Council’s representative on the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

The two proposed St. Petersburg ordinances recommend a ban on application of those fertilizers from June 1 through Sept. 30 but allow for a one-time exception. They also ban the sale of nitrogen or phosphorous fertilizers during the black-out period. Instead, a “summer blend” would be available. Some members of City Council and the public were concerned that the ordinances would not be enforceable, but Council member Bill Dudley says the ordinances will protect marine resources.

Even though, according to the Council’s agenda, “only City residents, property owners, or business owners may speak” during the Open Forum section of meetings, four people from the Orlando area spoke because they told the clerk they had businesses in St. Pete. They were the only four people to oppose the fertilizer ordinances.

Stephanie Bledsoe of Orlando said she is a doctor of plant medicine and is a technical and training director for Massey Services. Bledsoe and the others speaking against the ordinances favored a weaker fertilizer ordinance adopted in Jacksonville.

Two St. Petersburg residents spoke in favor of the proposed ordinances. Like many of the 31 other supporters of the fertilizer ordinances who attended the Council meeting, Catherine Harrelson wore two stickers: a red one saying “STOP Nitrogen Pollution with a STRONG Fertilizer Ordinance” and a green one saying “STOP Phosphorous Pollution with a STRONG Fertilizer Ordinance.” Harrelson is the chair of the Suncoast Sierra Club’s Coastal Task Force.

Even before the reading was finished, Council member Leslie Curran made a motion to approve the ordinances and it was immediately seconded. The motion passed unanimously on first reading. There will be a public hearing on the proposed fertilizer ordinances on March 19.

St. Pete’s proposed fertilizer ordinances

WMNF coverage of Hillsborough EPC’s consideration of fertilizer ordinance

Tampa Bay Estuary Program – TBEP

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