In a press release Monday, District 5 Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla praised the recent changes to Orange County’s fertilizer restrictions, which include increased fines, enforcement efforts, and public education on the issue.
The new restrictions came after months of contentious debate on the issue, with environmental groups expressing concerns about the effect that the fertilizers that help keep lawns green — specifically the nitrogen and phosphorus ingredients — get washed into Florida’s waters by the constant summer rainstorms. Lawn service companies have disputed many of the environmentalists’ claims, but as the Orlando Sentinel noted, there are concerns about pollution issues in Orange County affecting the rest of the state:
Orange County has a wider role in the fate of fertilizer pollution. The county’s springs, wetlands, storm drains and canals – and the pollution they carry – drain north into the Wekiva, Econlockhatchee and St. Johns rivers and south through creeks into the Everglades-bound Kissimmee River.
It is the downstream cities and counties where pollution has triggered the worst eruptions of harmful algae, beach closings because of health concerns and mass die-offs of manatees, birds and fish.
The previous Orange County ordinance did technically ban rainy-season fertilizing, but residents could apply for an exemption with a simple online class. However, less than 250 people sought the exemption and the ban was poorly enforced overall. Seminole County passed a ban on rainy-season fertilizing earlier this year.
“While there is still work to be done, there were some gains made today in the plight to achieve environmental sustainability and overall safety in the County,” said Bonilla’s press release, noting that the changes to the ordinance brought Orange County closer to the enforcement efforts of Pinellas and Volusia Counties, which have similar summer fertilizer restrictions.
Orange County’s Environmental Protection Division has published a fertilizer guide for residents, which includes recommendations about buying fertilizer that is phosphorus-free and uses 50% slow-release nitrogen, and to avoid fertilizing when rain is forecasted.
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