MANATEE COUNTY — As the summer rains are set begin, so is a ban on nitrogen-based fertilizer.
Manatee County’s fertilizer ordinance, which goes into effect June 1, bans nitrogen-based fertilizers through Sept. 30.
The ban is one meant to promote environmental health, particularly of the area’s stormwater systems. Stormwater ponds in East County communities, for example, drain into the Manatee and Braden rivers and then, ultimately, into the bay.
“The potential reduction of nutrients (from the fertilizers) mitigates algae blooms,” said Ryan Heise, operations director for the Lakewood Ranch Inter-District Authority, which overseas the maintenance of about 300 stormwater ponds in Lakewood Ranch. “From a residential perspective, that’s a good thing. Any reduction in those nutrients not only helps maintain the aesthetics locally, but also benefits the downstream water bodies.”
The ordinance also requires nitrogen-based fertilizers to be at least 50% slow-release for the remainder of the year.
It also bans fertilizers from being applied within 10 feet from the water’s edge. Additionally, phosphorous applications are banned year-round, unless a soil analysis proves a phosphorous deficiency and the deficiency is put on record with the county administrator, among other restrictions.
Heise said when it comes to stormwater ponds in Lakewood Ranch, algae blooms are the No. 1 complaint, accounting for about 75% of related maintenance requests.
Manatee’s fertilizer ordinance went into effect for the first time in 2012.
“We saw improvements last summer, but we’ve been doing a lot to mitigate algae blooms, and we can’t attribute it directly to the fertilizer ordinance,” Heise said. “We’d like to think it’s one of the tools we’re leveraging to help us with that.”
Heise said his department is coordinating with its common-area landscaping contractors to ensure they are adhering to the ordinance.
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