Fertilizer ban in Pinellas County

12/01/09 Mark Anderson
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

The Pinellas County Board of Commissioners met today to discuss a proposed new ordinance aimed at reducing nitrogen levels in the Tampa Bay area. The Board voted to hold a public hearing on January 19th, and took a step toward strengthening the ordinance during the meeting.

Environmentalists are concerned that fertilizer runoff is a major contributor to pollution in Bay area waters. The proposal is centered around controlling fertilizer use during the rainy summer months. Fertilizers contain high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, and are carried into area streams and bays by heavy summer rains. The idea is to ban the use of fast acting fertilizers during the summer season. Resident Nicholas Thrush blamed fertilizers for contributing to algae blooms known as red tides.

Many residents and environmental groups were present to support the measure, and argue that the changes will not have a negative impact on lawns. But some industry groups felt that they didn’t have enough say in the process.

The Pinellas proposal had an exception process included that would allow homeowners with lawn problems to take a one time exception, and allow them to use fertilizer that runs off quickly into waterways. Phil Compton of the Sierra Club was opposed to creating any exemptions.

Commissioner Susan Latvala questioned the purpose and practicality of the exemption, and weighed in on removing it prior to the public hearing, to create a simpler, more straightforward ordinance.

The City of St. Petersburg recently passed a similar ordinance, and the Hillsborough County Commission will hold a workshop on December 9th. Pinellas County resident Cathy Harrelson supported today’s decision by the commission.

Pinellas Commissioners will vote on the full measure next month.

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