Fertilizer regulation causing a local stir
Written by: JULIO OCHOA
Publication Date: October 9, 2007
Over the past decade, fertilizer use in Southwest Florida grew faster than the grass.
As the area's population bloomed, its consumption of fertilizer quadrupled. The amount of fertilizer applied to lawns and golf courses in Lee County grew from 5,238 tons in 1998 to 21,989 tons in 2007, according to figures from the Florida Department of Agriculture. In Collier County, fertilizer use grew from 5,343 tons in 1997 to 20,239 tons in 2007. The state collected information based on the fiscal year, which runs from June to July.
'Fertilizer use is far outpacing population growth and far outpacing development,' said Stewart DeCew, spokesman for the Sierra Club's local chapter. 'What we have to get control of are the products that are out there and the habits or bad behavior of consumers.'
Fertilizer runoff causes blooms of red drift and blue green algae to grow in lakes and estuaries, scientists say.
The problem is prompting local governments to regulate fertilizers. Some cities, such as Sanibel and Sarasota, drafted strict ordinances restricting the use of fertilizers by residents and landscaping businesses.
The Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, an advisory body made up of representatives from five counties in Southwest Florida, passed a resolution that served as the basis for the cities' ordinances.
Last year, Naples officials passed a law requiring at least one supervisor and 10 percent of employees of a landscaping business working in the city to attend a mandatory education program. Collier County officials recently considered regulations but commissioners declined to adopt them.
Lee County recently drafted a resolution of its own, which regulates fertilizer use by landscaping professionals but does not address use by ordinary residents.
Critics fear some ordinances, such as Lee's, will not do enough to protect local waters.
'This is a cop-out,' said Sanibel Mayor Mick Denham. 'It is a half-baked ordinance which is significantly bent towards the wishes of fertilizer folks and that is a shame.'