In a room filled with hundreds of residents, Seminole County commissioners today unanimously agreed to enact some of Central Florida’s toughest regulations on when and where home owners can apply fertilizers on their lawns, including imposing a summertime ban.
It’s an effort by Seminole to reduce the amount of nutrients — including nitrogen and phosphorus — that are commonly found in fertilizers and end up washing off lawns, yards, driveways, gutters and eventually into the lakes and rivers, spurring algae growth and polluting the waterways.
The new regulations will take effect Oct. 1. Until then, Seminole will launch an educational campaign to inform property owners about the correct ways to apply fertilizers to lawns.
“This is about caring about our community,” Commissioner Lee Constantine said. “This is about making sure that future generations have the water resources that they need to survive and that they are not paying for our pollution.”
According to the new rules, property owners cannot apply fertilizers with nitrogen and phosphorous from June 1 through Sept. 30, a time when regular afternoon thunderstorms tend to wash off the fertilizers.
Property owners also would not be allowed to fertilize with 15 feet of a water body’s shoreline or in an area that received 2 or more inches of rain within a 24-hour period. Grass clippings or other vegetative cannot be swept or blow off into gutters, roadways, ditches or stormwater drains.
Seminole’s restrictions are similar to those enacted by Brevard and Volusia counties years ago to protect the Indian River Lagoon and other coastal waterways.
But representatives from the turf and fertilizer industries spoke out against the “summer blackout” period, pointing to several scientific studies that show summer is when grass roots tend to absorb the most nutrients.
“It’s all about education,” said Matthew Choi of Scott’s Miracle Grow. “No one wants to deliberately impair the waterways.”
Dr. James Helmers, of Longwood, spoke in favor of the ordinance, saying he has swam in the Wekiva River for 40 years.
“We can live life without fertilizers,” Helmers said. “But we can’t live without water.”
Commission Chairman John Horan said fertilizers are rarely needed in the summer time.
“In the summer, my grass grows fast no matter if I put nitrogen or phosphate,” Horan said before voting in favor of the regulations. “I think what we’re doing here is a reasonable regulation. I don’t think it’s going to impair anybody’s lawns. So I like the ordinance.”
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