Lake Bans Fertilizing In Summertime

tim sullivan In: Lake Bans Fertilizing In Summertime | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
Commissioner Tim Sullivan

Good news from Lake County on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, as the commissioners had the foresight to limit the use of urban fertilizers.  This was in spite of earlier misinformation given by University of Florida representative Dr. Laurie Trenholm (see “For $4.2 million, IFAS needs to get it right,” and “IFAS Musters Weak Response to Palmer”.)

As seen in the article below which appeared in the online Daily Commercial, the vote pivoted on Commissioner Tim Sullivan.  Therefore, it would be really nice to send a thank you call or email to Mr. Sullivan: To contact Commissioner Sullivan, call 352-343-9850 or send an e-mail.

This was a hard-fought battle led by Sierra Club fertilizer fighters Cris Costello and Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson.  Fertilizer companies, lawn maintenance companies, turf growers and University of Florida Institute of Agricultural Sciences all advocate summer fertilizer use, and many representatives opposing the ban were present at the meeting.

Summer is an especially bad time to fertilize lawns in Florida because frequent rains can wash the fertilizer into streets and drainage systems which end up in water bodies and in our aquifer.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-

Lake bans fertilizing in summertime

By Carlos E. Medina

Posted Nov 21, 2017 at 5:26 PM Updated at 8:59 AM

TAVARES — A proposed Lake County summertime ban on lawn fertilizers spurred a robo call campaign backed by fertilizer industry supporters and attracted representatives from fertilizer and lawn care companies from around the state and country for Tuesday’s public hearing.

Proponents of the blackout also filled the commission chambers during discussion of the ban on using fertilizers that contain nitrogen and phosphorus compounds between June and September.

After more than two hours of discussion, and facing an expected defeat, the measure got a reprieve after Commissioner Tim Sullivan, who voted against the initial proposal, switched his vote in favor of the measure. The commission voted 3-2 to approve, with Josh Blake and Wendy Breeden voting against the ordinance.

Commissioner Leslie Campione, expecting defeat, even offered up an alternative plan where the county would recommend residents not use the offending fertilizers during the summer and offer incentives to residents who voluntarily adhered to a ban.

Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Sierra Club Organizer, speaks for the ban

But after Sullivan’s comments, which came last, it was clear the tide had turned.

  “I think Lake County is unique. With 1,400 lakes we have to be different. I’m going to probably err on the side of caution and vote in favor, and that’s a change because I wasn’t that way last vote,” Sullivan said.

As a concession to those who opposed the ordinance, enforcement of the ban will not begin for a year. The county will also implement an education campaign for residents before fines go live. Breeden also asked for, and received, an exception to use phosphates on flowering plants and vegetable gardens.

Nitrogen and phosphorous compounds are essential nutrients in waterways, including lakes and rivers, but too much can harm water quality and kill aquatic life.

The proposed ordinance is an effort to help keep Lake County’s more than 1,400 lakes healthy and comes from the Keep Lake Beautiful committee. The proposal also increases the distance residents could spread fertilizer from the water’s edge from 10 feet to 15 feet and requires the use of a 50 percent slow-release nitrogen fertilizer.

More than a dozen people on both sides of the debate addressed the commission.

“What a blackout does is forces us to do what’s wrong, which is we need to load the fertilizer in the spring and load the fertilizer in the fall because we can’t apply in the summer,” said Erica Santella, an agronomist with TruGreen — a national lawn care company.

“I have a lawn. It’s great. I don’t fertilize at all … I understand when your business is at stake or when you think your job is at stake, you get a little worried. But there are other things you can use (during the summer),” said Elizabeth Kapoor of Leesburg.

Campione also did not appreciate a robo call campaign which she felt misrepresented the ordinance.

“I think that was really dishonest and it was misleading,” she said. ”(There were) claims that we were actually trying to ban people from fertilizing at all. It was worded just perfectly to push certain buttons.”

Campione asked several industry representatives if they were part of the campaign.

“There’s been a number of efforts and we’ve been part of those. So yes, to raise awareness about the ordinance,” said Ana Cuello, a national representative of Scotts Miracle-Gro, which has a plant in Groveland.


  1. Thank you Commissioner Sullivan for listening and learning and having the guts to do the right thing. I have a big lawn and NEVER fertilize!, If it goes brown or has some weeds- so be it. The future of our water is much more critical than having a pretty, environmentally unfriendly lawn. Learn to go native and let mother nature do her thing.
    Sorry fertilizer companies, think of transitioning to a more environmentally friendly business. Too many people are waking up to the truth.

  2. Thank you Commissioner Sullivan for your critical vote in favor of the maintenance of the waterways of Florida, showing your interest in protecting not only the citizens of Lake County but Floridians everywhere. May your vote serve as an inspiration to commissioners in other counties as well. Thanks again!

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