Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Most Hillsborough commissioners would consider a fertilizer ban to curb pollution

TAMPA — Hillsborough County appears poised to join Pinellas County and St. Petersburg in a sales ban on lawn fertilizer with nitrogen during the rainy season.

The goal is to reduce the amount of nitrogen that makes its way to local waters. The nutrient causes algae blooms that harm marine life.

During a workshop Wednesday of the Environmental Protection Commission, which is made up of Hillsborough County commissioners, a majority indicated they would back a sales ban.

Commissioners Kevin White, Rose Ferlita and Kevin Beckner were solid in their support. Commissioner Mark Sharpe is leaning in that direction.

"There's no question in my mind that as we've grown as a population in Florida and more people have come in here and more people have more yards, we're contributing to the problem," Sharpe said. "If it's a matter of yards or wildlife and fish, we've got to favor on the side of the water, the wildlife and the fish."

Beckner and Ferlita noted that the fertilizer rules need to be consistent across the region to be effective. And all the commissioners talked about the importance of educating people about proper fertilizer application.

"Probably 80 percent of Americans are kind of like I am. If a half a bag is good, a whole bag is better," White said. "You don't know the implications or the ramifications of what you're doing to the environment or anything else."

Only commissioner Al Higginbotham expressed reservations, questioning whether research supports the claim that residential fertilizer in stormwater run-off contributes to algae blooms.

He also cautioned against the EPC making the rule without consulting with the cities of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace. If the EPC passes the rule, the ban would apply to the cities. If the Board of County Commissioners addresses fertilizer use in an ordinance, it would apply only to the unincorporated parts of the county.

Commissioners made no formal decisions on Wednesday. EPC staff members said they would craft an ordinance by early next year for further discussion.

More than 20 cities and counties in Florida have passed rules regulating fertilizer use in the past two years.

Some follow a model ordinance included in a state law passed last year that requires local governments along impaired water bodies to ban the use of nitrogen-rich fertilizers when the forecast calls for heavy rain.

Others go further, banning the use of fertilizers altogether during the rainy months between June and September.

A St. Petersburg ordinance prohibits the retail sale of fertilizer, following recommendations of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. The sales ban goes into effect May 1, 2011. Pinellas County has scheduled a public hearing on a similar ordinance for early next year.

All the ordinances include exemptions for farms, golf courses, athletic fields and vegetable gardens.

Supporters of the fertilizer ban say it's an inexpensive way to meet impending state and federal requirements to reduce nitrogen and other pollutants in rivers, lakes and bays.

Bob Stetler, director of the EPC's wetlands division, said it would cost taxpayers more than $1 million to remove nitrogen from runoff through treatment and mechanical means.

Rich Brown, a long-time advocate for the Hillsborough River, said the rainy season ban is the only way to control nitrogen.

"Without that you can't stop the average citizen from putting stuff down," he said.

Opponents say the fertilizer ban won't help, warning of even more nitrogen ending up in local waters when people over-fertilize before and after the black-out months.

Erica Santella, technical manager for the lawn maintenance company TruGreen, urged commissioners to adopt the state's model ordinance, which was developed by University of Florida researchers, state environmental and agricultural officials and industry leaders.

"It does weigh heavily on science and not on emotion," she said.

Janet Zink can be reached at or (813) 226-3401.

Most Hillsborough commissioners would consider a fertilizer ban to curb pollution 12/09/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 9, 2009 11:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Arcade Fire open hearts, play with passion at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa


    Gloves off, hearts open and disco balls glittering, Arcade Fire scaled the stage for the first time ever in Tampa, pouncing and flailing and performing with all the passion that’s made them one of the world’s most celebrated rock bands this century.

    Arcade Fire performed at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa on Sept. 22, 2017.
  2. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The wait felt like forever for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, having gone 10 months without playing in a game.

    A scramble in front of the Lightning goal has Matthew Peca, far left, and Erik Cernak, middle, helping out goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy during the third period of a 3-1 win against the Predators. Vasilevskiy, who made 29 saves, was “exceptional,” coach Jon Cooper says.
  3. Rays journal: Alex Cobb may have pitched last game in Rays uniform (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — RHP Alex Cobb pitched well enough to lead the Rays to an 8-3 win over the Orioles on Friday.

    Wilson Ramos gives thanks after hitting a grand slam during the second inning, putting the Rays up 4-0.
  4. Steven Souza Jr. vindicating big trade for Rays

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There was a time when the three-team, 11-player transaction the Rays orchestrated to get Steven Souza Jr. from the Nationals looked liked a bad deal.

    The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. has 30 home runs this season while improving his defense and baserunning but wants to improve on his .236 batting average.
  5. Fennelly: Lightning's Manon Rheaume made history 25 years ago Saturday

    Lightning Strikes

    The name is part of Lightning history, hockey history, sports history.

    Lightning goalie Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game 25 years ago today.