Sierra Club Press Release: New Coalition for Water Quality is Not What it Seems

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sierra club logo cris costello In: Sierra Club Press Release: New Coalition for Water Quality is Not What it Seems | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River

For Immediate Release

February 4, 2020

Contacts: Cris Costello, [email protected], 941-914-0421




Turf and agrichemical industries fail to hide behind “green” name

 SARASOTA – From 2007 through 2014, the turf and agrichemical industries tried to get the state legislature to preempt local control of urban fertilizer. They are back at it again under the guise of the “green” sounding moniker “Floridians for Water Quality Protection,” a new coalition announced today by representatives from Massey Services, Environmental & Turf Services, Inc., and Mac Carraway, the former president of a large turf farm, and well-known opponent of strong urban fertilizer regulation:

Cris Costello, Sierra Club Organizing Manager:

“The backbone of water quality protection in Florida over the past 13 years has been the ability for local governments to regulate sources of pollution in their own backyards. Because watersheds are different, it has made every sense to take a watershed-by-watershed approach to fully consider the unique needs and circumstances of each community. Since 2007, thirteen counties and nearly ninety municipalities have adopted what the 63 organizations of Everglades Coalition and many other organizations like the Florida Springs Council, Save the Manatee Club and Waterkeepers Florida, consider to be strong, protective urban fertilizer ordinances. The major, and in many cases, sole purpose of the above organizations is to protect and restore water quality.

What we call “strong” urban fertilizer ordinances include provisions for: Strict (no exemption) rainy season Nitrogen (N) and Phosphorus (P) application bans, limits on the rates, content and location of Nitrogen and Phosphorus application during the other months of the year.

The science behind the state’s many strong ordinances is voluminous. Each and every county that has adopted a strong ordinance since 2007, and especially since 2009, has a public record of all of the science it used to determine the viability of a strong ordinance in their respective watershed. In 2009 Florida Statute (403.9337) mandated that each ordinance stronger than the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Model ordinance be “science-based, and economically and technically feasible” – since that date ordinances covering 11 counties, and in most cases all of their respective municipalities, have been adopted and implemented.

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The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has never challenged the science behind any of the existing ordinances. In fact, in December 2014 FDACS updated the labeling

requirements for DIY bags of turf fertilizer in the state to include the following language: “Check with your county or city government to determine if there are local regulations for fertilizer use.”

The natural resource staff at the local government level, those who have drafted and implemented these strong ordinances, do nothing but fight for the best protection of their local waterways. To claim that the strong ordinances “appear to have been designed by people who don’t care about protecting Florida’s water quality” is outrageous. Mr. Stuart Z. Cohen, Ph.D., CGWP, president of Environmental & Turf Services, Inc. should stay in Maryland.

The fertilizer industry’s response has been positive. In 2015 Scotts® announced their new summer-safe, no N-no P, turf product. It is an example of the positive response received by many urban fertilizer manufacturers since the first summer rainy season bans were adopted in 2007, especially those manufacturers based in Florida. Pinellas County keeps a long running list of strong ordinance compliant products.

Lawns are healthier with less nitrogen. Many homeowners, homeowner associations, and lawn maintenance professionals have found that the decrease in application of N has led to less pest and fungus damage, and therefore less turf replacement and less need for pesticide and fungicide treatments.

Is it not apparent why this group of turf growers and agrichemical industry representatives is going after strong urban fertilizer management? Too much N means more turf sales, more pesticide sales, more fungicide sales, and more N sales. For this group to claim that it is interested in water quality when they are all about ending strong urban fertilizer regulation is not only disingenuous but is ridiculous. Naming itself “Floridians for Water Quality Protection” does not mask the fact that it is an industry group that wants an end to the regulation of a source of pollution that fuels harmful algae blooms. This group must assume that the legislature will take this farce of a coalition as a reason to tie the hands of local governments from protecting their residents’ public health and their waterfront-based economies from the loss of tourism jobs and property values.

Questions to ask and get answers to:

 What businesses/organizations make up this new coalition?

 Is urban fertilizer preemption their only focus?

 They use the Indian River Lagoon as an example of a regional approach that has worked.           Would this group then promote the same 4-month rainy season blackout period for N and           P  application that now covers the Indian River Lagoon region for all of the state?

Note, Mac Carraway and EREF are the same industry players that have filed a legal challenge against the City of Naples’ re-established rainy season blackout period ordinance which closely mirrors the ordinance provisions now protecting the Indian River Lagoon.

In conclusion, strict rainy season ban ordinances have been in effect in Florida for nearly 13 years and have become a set of well-established and accepted practices through which local governments can address and reduce pollution borne by local stormwater runoff. The only way to argue against such success is to throw around falsehoods and hide behind a “green” name.”



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