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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pinellas officials, lawmakers gird for fertilizer fight



CLEARWATER -- Pinellas County officials urged the Legislative Delegation on Tuesday to fight off bills voiding the county's bans on summertime sale and use of traditional fertilizer.

The response: It'll be tough.

"It's going to be a difficult issues to kill the bills just because of Pinellas County," said state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, during a joint meeting of the commission and lawmakers.

The county's 1-year-old ordinance is similar to 37 other local laws, but the bans go further than some of the retail lobby supports.  The industry has pressed the Legislature to pass a law forcing counties to use only a less restrictive statewide measure, claiming the county's ordinance is isn't based on science. Two Panhandle lawmakers have filed bills to do just that.

In fact, state Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs, also signaled that he supports a statewide standard so retailers don't have to be bothered with different standards in different places.

But Kelli Levy, Pinellas' watershed division manager, said the ban on summertime use seems to have worked, and retailers are making changes to comply with  the upcoming ban on summertime sales of fertilizer. The restrictions apply only to fertilizer with nitrogen or phosphorous. The county has test results from upper Tampa Bay, Lake Tarpon and near Tarpon Springs that show nitrogen is a big contributor to pollution in waterways, she said. If not stopped, the pollution leads to millions in costs to fix lakes and waterways, county officials say.

"It's the old-time guys, who don't want to change their business model, making noise," said Commission Chairwoman Susan Latvala.

Opponents have cited a study from a University of Florida institute suggesting that bans have unintended consequences -- a report Rep. Jim Frishe, R-St. Petersburg, recommended that the county look at. But Levy said that report has been "retracted."

That institute had received money from turf grass and fertilizer companies, the Times reported in October 2009.

UPDATE: UF officials say they are updating the report, not retracting it. The updated version is not available online, though the original is.


[Last modified: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 1:15pm]


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