TAMPA — A summer ban on nitrogen fertilizers is one step closer to being considered by county commissioners.
The Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission discussed a model ordinance Thursday that would prohibit the use of fertilizers with nitrogen from June 1 through Sept. 30 — the rainy season.
Officials at the Tampa Bay Estuary Program estimate the ban would keep 84 tons of nitrogen a year out of the bay.
The proposed ordinance was drawn up by the Estuary Program, which contends that nitrogen fertilizer runoff promotes harmful algae growth in the bay and can be minimized with the use of slow-release fertilizer applied in May. The group hopes that local governments will adopt the ordinance.
The commission decided Thursday to schedule several workshops to refine suggestions for Hillsborough County.
And don't worry about brown lawns or homeowners association fines, Sierra Club regional representative Phil Compton said, because iron-rich fertilizer and slow-release nitrogen applied earlier are just as effective.
"It's not a matter of green or brown lawns," he said.
Those who support the ban say it will save millions in back-end cleanup of nitrogen from the bay, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will require.
Proponents also say landscapers won't lose money because homeowners will request slow-release fertilizer. But Mary Hartney, president of the Florida Fertilizer and Agrichemical Association, said that might not happen.
Farmers and landscapers have said they don't like the ban. If turf grass isn't fertilized during the summer, the roots won't grow as deep as they should, said George Hochmuth, a University of Florida research director.
"That's an unintended consequence of a well-intentioned ordinance," he said.
He also said homeowners will probably just dump extra fertilizer on their lawns in the fall, as soon as the ban is lifted.
Others said that it's useless without enforcement or training.
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 661-2443.