Florida Works to Ban Phosphorus
In this view of Florida, taken from space, algae blooms, often referred to as red tide, are visible along nearly the entire coastline. A few counties in the state are considering a ban on fertilizers that have been linked to the algae blooms in local waterways.
Florida will deliver a plan to decrease phosphorus in lawn fertilizers sold throughout the state a year early, a county official recently said.
Along with Sarasota and Lee counties, Martin county has been considering banning phosphorus from fertilizers because the chemicals can lead to algae blooms in local waterways, county water resource manager Paul Millar said.
“Last summer was a key example: The algae was caused partly because of the nutrient loading into the estuary,” he said.
Because of the counties’ move toward a ban — and a partial ban on phosphorus fertilizers in the village of Wellington — the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services want to prevent more piecemeal ordinances. Instead, the agencies are presenting a potential solution to the problem in January, Millar said.
“It makes a lot more sense to look at this problem statewide anyway,” said Millar, who spoke about the development at a meeting of the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments on Wednesday.
A sweeping regulation would better address the problem and make it easier for fertilizer manufacturers to deliver a product specially made for Florida, he said.
Reducing the amount of phosphorus entering the water supply is part of the $200 million water-quality project announced by Gov. Jeb Bush on the banks of polluted Lake Okeechobee last October.
Fertilizers now sold in local home improvement stores contain anything from zero to 16 percent phosphorus. The exact amount is the second of the three prominent numbers found on all fertilizer bags.
The county is working with the two state agencies, industry representatives and other groups to develop the comprehensive plan, with exemptions likely to be established for existing fertilizer inventory and new lawns.
If Martin County or other municipalities “don’t like what the state comes up with, they can move forward with their own ordinances,” Millar said.
But “we don’t want to pass an ordinance here in Martin and then have people run up to St. Lucie County and buy whatever they want,” he said.