Manatee summer fertilizer limits work

skennedy@bradenton.comJune 12, 2013 

MANATEE -- Manatee County's effort to limit fertilizers use during the summer has been "very positive," a county official said Tuesday.

Fertilizer runoff has been blamed for polluting waterways and suspected of contributing to red tide.

"We're starting to see results," said Rob Brown, environment protection division manager for the county Department of Natural Resources.

The limits include applying phosphate- and nitrogen-based fertilizers to lawns.

Homeowner associations embraced the fertilizer ban during a "blackout period" from June 1 through Sept. 30, and local fertilizer companies responded with new products featuring summer blends without phosphorus and nitrogen, Brown told county commissioners.

"It's been a big boon for our state retailers," he said. "I'm very impressed with the movement that has taken place so far."

Neighboring counties have also adopted various methods of controlling fertilizers, since rainfall washes them into the water, causing algae growth and ecological damage to bays, lakes and rivers, Brown told the commission during the budget review.

"Our goal is prevention," Brown said. He said it is much cheaper and more effective than any other alternative.

Other counties also limit fertilizer applications and ban their sale altogether during the summer, when Florida gets 80 percent of its rain, Brown said.

"It's starting to gain some momentum," said Manatee Commissioner Robin DiSabatino, referring to Man

atee's blackout period and educational efforts by the Department of Natural Resources.

In 2011, the Manatee County Commission adopted a fertilizer ordinance in an effort to protect the environment.

During the summer, certain fertilizers may not be applied to lawns. The ordinance exempts farms, vegetable gardens, athletic fields and golf courses.

Manatee's ordinance is stricter than one passed recently by the Florida Legislature, Brown said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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