The Orlando Sentinel on June 5, 2017, has run this important article by Cris Costello about the dangers of lawn fertilizers, especially during rainy periods.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Orange County, ban lawn fertilizer during rainy months
It is time for Orange County to join the other 11 counties and 82 municipalities covered by strong urban fertilizer ordinances that include a strict application ban during the rainy season.
After nearly 10 years of strong urban fertilizer ordinance protection along the Gulf Coast, it is easy to make a succinct argument for a strong ordinance for Orange County.
The science behind the state’s many strong ordinances is voluminous. Every county that has adopted a strong ordinance since 2007 has a public record of the science used to determine the viability of such an ordinance in its respective watershed.
Cris Costello of the Sierra Club.
In 2009, Florida law mandated that each ordinance that was stronger than the state Department of Environmental Protection model ordinance be “science-based, and economically and technically feasible.” Since that date, ordinances covering more than 80 municipalities and counties have been adopted and implemented without legal challenge.
In December 2014, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services updated the labeling requirements for do-it-yourself 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.” FDACS recognizes the stronger local rules and has never challenged the legality or the science behind any of the existing ordinances.
Florida law in 2009 mandated limited certification for all commercial applicators by Jan. 1, 2014. But the certification testing process is flawed. Applicants can fail parts of the test but still get a passing grade. This should be reason enough for Orange County commissioners to stop depending on certification to protect from fertilizer pollution when local and downstream water bodies are at risk.
But even more relevant to the discussion regarding urban fertilizer management is the fact that someone could have a doctorate in urban fertilizer and still be at the mercy of our notorious Florida downpours. No matter who applies fertilizer during the rainy season — homeowner or professional — the product is likely to be washed down the storm drain before it can be used by the turf or landscape plant. This is why the rainy season application bans along the Gulf Coast and the Indian River Lagoon are broadly accepted and implemented.
There are good reasons to focus on urban fertilizer:
- Strong ordinances are low-cost alternatives that can make the difference without onerous enforcement measures.
- Preventing fertilizer pollution is much more cost-effective than taxpayer-funded clean-up projects.
- Strong ordinances have been successful in both reducing the amount of nutrient pollution in at-risk water bodies and maintaining lush Florida landscapes.
When it rains in Florida, it pours pollution into our waterways. It is time for Orange County to adopt strong fertilizer-management practices that will lead professionals and citizens alike to more wisely manage residential fertilizer.
Cris Costello is the senior regional organizing representative of the Sierra Club.