On Tuesday the Lake County Board of County Commissioners will consider an update to the county’s existing fertilizer ordinance. An improved ordinance will further protect our lakes and rivers from nutrient pollution.
“This is not a ‘left’ or ‘right’ issue, we can protect our lakes and our property rights by just refraining from using nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizer products in the summer. Sadly, it is being artificially politicized by fertilizer lobbyists and certain opportunists as a way to alienate and divide residents on the issue.
We live in the land of 1400 named lakes and if there was ever an issue conservatives, independents and liberals could be unified on it should be this one,’ says Lake County Commissioner Leslie Campione. Last spring, at the suggestion of some local citizens, commissioners asked their Keep Lake Beautiful advisory committee (KLB) to research the issue and produce recommendations. Lake County Environmental Services updated the ordinance using the recommendations from KLB. These have been approved by the Lake County Water Authority, Lake Soil and Water Conservation District and Lake County Planning and Zoning. The KLB recommendations reflect the common sense provisions in the time-tested strong ordinances that are already in effect in 11 counties and over 82 cities since as early as 2007, including those in Seminole County.
Those provisions include the following:

  • Fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorous may not be applied during the summertime rainy season.
  • A 15-foot fertilizer-free zone adjacent to water bodies.
  • At least 50 percent slow-release nitrogen is required outside of the rainy season.
  • Newly planted turf should not be fertilized until after a waiting period.
  • Everybody, including the lawn care services, must play by the same rules.

One of the greatest things about strong, water quality-protective urban fertilizer ordinances is that they help you keep your lawn and landscape healthy and beautiful too. Less nitrogen applied where strong ordinances have been in effect for years have resulted in fewer pest infestations and therefore less pesticide use. The rainy season blackout period only applies to specific types of fertilizer. There are dozens of summer-safe products you can use during the rainy season.
The worst thing the County Commission could do next Tuesday is to take out the summer rainy season nitrogen and phosphorous application ban.
This is the backbone of the ordinance — without it, the ordinance would be weak and ineffective. The rainy season is when no one can prevent leaching and runoff, no matter how well-intentioned or well-trained.
The slogan at the Tampa Bay/Sarasota Bay area website BeFloridianNow. org is “Saving our Lakes, Rivers & Estuaries One Yard at a Time.” As they point out, “In Florida, summer rains don’t water fertilizer in — they wash it off our lawns and into our rivers, lagoons and ocean. The excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the water feeds algae blooms that use up oxygen, kill fish and turn the water the color of pea soup. As more and more people move to our area, the problem gets bigger and bigger.” We don’t have oceans or lagoons here in Lake County, but we do have a problem with excess nutrients in our springs and lakes.
Many of us live in Lake County because of the natural beauty of our lakes and springs. Additionally, much of our economic development activity is based on utilizing and showcasing our waterways. You can make a few small changes in your own yard that will impact our quality of life. You can make a bigger impact that will protect all of Lake County’s water resources by contacting your county commissioner to encourage him or her to vote for the summer rainy season application ban and the rest of the protective provisions recommended by the KLB. It is time for our county to take this step towards conserving and improving our outdoor lifestyle here in Lake County.

Susan Fetter