Tampa council pledges support for ban on fertilizer sales
TAMPA - If Hillsborough County's environmental regulators impose a ban on sales of lawn fertilizer with nitrogen in the rainy seasons, Tampa will stand behind the move.
On Thursday, the city council approved a resolution pledging support for proposed new rules on nutrient-laden fertilizers that are being crafted by the county's Environmental Protection Commission, which is made up of Hillsborough County commissioners.
"If people can't buy it, they'll be less likely to use it in the summer months," said Nanette O'Hara, public outreach coordinator for the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, one of several local environmental groups that have been working with the county on proposed rules.
The goal is to reduce the amount of nitrogen and other pollutants that makes its way to local waters. The nutrient causes algae blooms that harm marine life. Nearly two dozen cities and counties in Florida have passed new rules on fertilizer use in recent years.
Some of the restrictions are modeled on a state law requiring local governments along impaired water bodies to ban the use of fertilizers during heavy rainstorms. Others ban the use of fertilizers during the state's rainy seasons, between June and September.
A St. Petersburg law prohibits the retail sale of fertilizer, following recommendations of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. The sales ban goes into effect May 1, 2011. The new rules include exemptions for farms, golf courses, athletic fields and vegetable growers.
If the EPC approves the new rules, they would apply to residents in the unincorporated areas of Hillsborough County, as well as Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City.
Councilman John Dingfelder said he supports restrictions but didn't want enforcement to get to the point where the city will "be going up and down streets" looking for violators.
"I really hope that we're not going that route," he told fellow council members.
Both the state and federal government are expected to impose new requirements on Florida's municipalities to reduce nitrogen in rivers, lakes and other waterways.
Reporter Christian M. Wade can be reached at (813) 259-7679
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