Environmentalists Battle Fertilizer Exemption Bill

Press Conference on St. Petersburg's waterfront
Fertilizing in the rain
ST. PETERSBURG (2012-2-3) -

Bills now circulating in Tallahassee would block cities and counties from enacting bans on applying fertilizer during the summer rainy months - if those lawns are professional treated. A group of environmentalists offered what they say is proof the law won't work.

Several cities and counties - including St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and Sarasota County - have enacted bans on the use of fertilizers with nitrogen or phosphorous during times when it rains. The bans are aimed at reducing nutrient pollution in Forida's waterways, which can lead to red tides offshore and green algae blooms in rivers and springs.

Now, state lawmakers are considering bills that would exempt professional companies from any regulations. But Cris Costello of the Florida chapter of the Sierra Club showed several pictures of lawns being fertilized by such companies during rainstorms - which then can be washed away into waterways.

"All three clearly condemn fertilizer application on soggy soil, fertlizer application during the month of January,"Costello said in a news conference on St. Petersburg's waterfront, "and leaving fertilizer on impervious surfaces."

She says the only pressure for this change in the law has come from the companies that are directly affected.

"Never has one resident argued against these strong ordinances," she says. "Only industry representatives have ever argued against them. Residents get this - it makes sense. You don't have be a rocket scientist to figure out that you don't want to put fertilizer down when during our intense rain storms during the summer."

The environmental groups want to put pressure on state lawmakers to let local governments - and not Tallahassee - control when fertilizer can be applied. The bills are expected to be discussed on Monday.

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