In another municipal water win, the Village of Pinecrest unanimously approved a fertilizer ordinance on first reading on March 9, 2021, after hearing about the dangers of nutrient pollution from Miami Waterkeeper’s COO Kelly Cox. Fertilizer is full of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. These are great for your plants and vegetation. However, too much of a good thing can be bad when found in high concentrations in our waterways. This is known as nutrient pollution. These ordinances are aimed at limiting nutrients from entering our waterways.
While fertilizer can benefit plant growth, it is used excessively in South Florida. This excess fertilizer ends up in Biscayne Bay when it rains. Our waters are extremely sensitive to the nutrients and phosphorus contained in fertilizers. These unnecessary nutrients in our waterways fuel algae blooms and seagrass dieoffs, like the one that caused the massive Biscayne Bay fish kill in the summer of 2020. Other major sources of nutrients include septic tanks, stormwater, and sewage leaks.
In 2015, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) determined that Biscayne Bay was at an “ecological tipping point" and declared the Bay a "Habitat Focus Area". Peer-reviewed research from NOAA authors supported the idea that Biscayne Bay is at risk of losing its lush seagrass-based ecosystem and becoming dominated by algae. In 2019, Miami-Dade County’s Seagrass Report found that 85% of the seagrass in some areas of Biscayne Bay had disappeared in just a few years. Fertilizer ordinances, like the one just passed by Pinecrest, are one of the crucial tools to reduce pollution in Biscayne Bay. (Other "nutrient pollution" sources are septic tanks, sewage spills, and stormwater runoff.)
The Village of Pinecrest is undertaking a strong fertilizer ordinance that includes many of Miami Waterkeeper's recommendations. This includes a prohibited application period during Miami’s rainiest months to prevent nutrient-rich runoff into the bay. The ordinance also creates fertilizer-free zones everywhere within 20 feet of a waterway or storm drain. (However, it's important to note that all of Miami-Dade County is now also covered by the County-wide fertilizer ordinance.)
We applaud the steps taken by the Village of Pinecrest and will continue to push for more protective measures across South Florida. Biscayne Bay is a cornerstone of South Florida’s economy, culture, and recreation. This is a crucial first step towards returning Biscayne Bay to the clear water and thriving ecosystem of its past.
Click HERE to watch Kelly Cox’s fertilizer ordinance presentation to the Village of Pinecrest.