SAFETY HARBOR — Listen up, fertilizing scofflaws.
Between June 1 and Sept. 30, or whenever severe rain or flood warnings are issued, put away that nitrogen and phosphorous-rich fertilizer and don't think about applying it to your lawns.
That was the decision of Safety Harbor city commissioners who accepted a county fertilizer ban as is.
Safety Harbor could have opted out of Pinellas' ban and adopted its own. But after hearing a presentation from one of the county's environmental directors late Monday, city leaders didn't think that was necessary.
Kelli Hammer Levy, a director with the county's environmental and watershed management division, squashed one of Safety Harbor's biggest concerns: enforcement.
With just one 20-hour-a-week code enforcement officer, city officials weren't sure how they were going to police neighborhoods during the months of the ban. "We are not proposing any additional staff," Levy said. "This is something that we can do with existing (county) resources."
Additionally, the Sierra Club has volunteered to help, she said. The club was one of the biggest advocates of the ban Pinellas County commissioners adopted Jan. 19.
Hearing that put Safety Harbor leaders at ease.
"I don't want to go forward with a more stringent ordinance that we may end up having to enforce," Mayor Andy Steingold said. "We'll opt in."
Golf courses, vegetable gardens and farms are exempt from the ban. Next year, additional summertime restrictions will go into effect. Retailers will not be allowed to sell fertilizer with nitrogen or phosphates.
The ordinance, the toughest in the state, is necessary to prevent harmful algae blooms, like one last summer that stretched 14 miles from Safety Harbor to Weedon Island.
Levy said that 74 percent of Pinellas' waterways do not meet state water quality standards.
"Nutrient impairment is the primary problem," she said. "That means nitrogen and phosphorous."
Rodney Thrash can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4167.