Tampa City Council looks at fertilizer ordinance's economic impact

11/03/11 Josh Holton
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Today the Tampa City Council took another look at the economic impact of a ban on the sale of fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus. Fertilizer companies are still trying to have their say.

Fertilizer companies have been asking the City of Tampa to consider making exceptions for their products. Jan McLean is on the city’s legal team, and asked the city to consider an exception in the ordinance for fertilizers used only on edible plants.

Scott's fertilizers asked the city to make the exemption, but the Sierra Club’s Phil Compton said that if they had their way, they would have asked for commercial exemptions too. McLean echoed his sentiment.

But McLean said she did not recommend requests from fertilizer manufacturer TruGreen, which would have allowed for commercial use too.

Compton said that many of the companies protest the ordinance, which passed earlier this year, claiming that their employees are trained to use the product in a way that doesn’t contribute to run off during the rainy season. Compton said that algae blooms prove that current methods are ineffective, and that the ordinance should be maintained as is through next June, when it is set to go in effect.

City Council member Harry Cohen said that after the summertime ban goes into effect next year, that the City will be in a better position to assess the economic impact.

McLean said that by around this time next year the city could expect to see such an analysis.

During public comment Dena Leavengood said that the sooner companies adapt to the enactment of the ordinance, the quicker they will be competitive amidst the looming changes.

Leavengood joined the Sierra Club and several others during public comment in asking the city to make no exemptions in the current ordinance.

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Sierra Club Organizing Representative

What Sierra Club told Council today was: 1. When it rains, it pours in Tampa during the summer. 2. Summer rainwater washes off urban landscapes in great amounts and travels through the stormwater system directly to the Hillsborough River and Tampa Bay. 3. It does not matter who applies fertilizer before a summer storm, commercial applicator or homeowner, it will be washed off by the intensity of the rainfall. 4. Harmful and nuisance algae threaten Tampa water resources and our local economy. In as much, we implore you to retain the very backbone of the ordinance you adopted in June, the strict – no exemptions – rainy season prohibition of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizer application. Sierra Club advocates that Tampa's ordinance be maintained with the rainy season ban on applying nitrogen intact permanently. We're grateful that Tampa City Council agreed with our position today. The experience for the past 4 years in Sarasota with such a restriction has shown an improvement in the health of waterways and turfgrass alike, and has imposed no financial hardship on landscape businesses. Actually, landscapers have found they can maintain healthy, green lawns at lower operating cost to themselves and their clients, as chinch bug and root rot fungus problems that are exacerbated by summer nitrogen application are greatly reduced. The grass is greener, and the water is cleaner. Sierra Club thanks Tampa for joining the 50+ other Florida cities and counties who've already taken this sensible approach to create a solution to pollution that saves taxpayers - $56 million in Tampa - by reducing the cost of removing nitrogen from our bays and rivers, and here, helps restore the health and beauty of our city's #1 natural asset, the Hillsborough River.