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Hillsborough backs away from fertilizer ban

Labor & Litigation

County’s Environmental Protection Commission approved new regulations that will restrict homeowners from applying nitrogen-based fertilizer before heavy rainfalls.

| July 16, 2010

TAMPA, Fla. - Rejecting calls from environmentalists, Hillsborough County backed away from a proposed ban on the sale of lawn fertilizer with nitrogen in the rainy seasons.

Instead, the county's Environmental Protection Commission, which is made up of Hillsborough County commissioners, on Thursday approved new regulations that will restrict homeowners from applying nitrogen-based fertilizer before heavy rainfalls under the new rules. The fertilizer could not be used within 10 feet of a body of water.

Farmers who use fertilizer for agricultural purposes will be exempt from the new rules.

Several commissioners said they thought a proposed ban went too far toward curbing what some referred to as an "insignificant amount" of nitrogen from lawn fertilizers.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe cited research indicating less than 1 percent of the nitrogen flowing into the region's waterways comes from residential lawn fertilizer applications.

"If we gave everyone pooper-scoopers and took the poop out of folks' yards, we could actually affect more than 8 percent of the nitrogen going into the Bay," Sharpe said.

Sharpe also pointed out that the county lacks the resources to enforce a fertilizer ban.

But dissenters Rose Ferlita and Kevin Beckner said the proposed rules didn't go far enough to protect the environment.

Scientists at the county and Tampa Bay Estuary Program recommended the ban, saying fertilizers are a major contributor to nutrient pollution that saps the oxygen in waterways and fuels algae blooms that harm marine life. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has labeled hundreds of state waters as "impaired" because of nutrient pollution, including parts of Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough and Alafia rivers.

Please visit Tampa Bay Online to read the rest of this article.

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