The State of Florida has designated Biscayne Bay as “impaired” for nutrient pollution. Municipal fertilizer ordinances that limit the time, extent, and type of fertilizer to be applied can help reduce runoff of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus into Biscayne Bay and surrounding water bodies. Such nutrient pollution can significantly degrade water quality and lead to algae blooms that harm not only the ecosystem but also the coastal economy. Increased health care costs from hospitals and doctor visits, losses in tourism revenue, and clean-up activities can all be negative economic impacts of algae blooms.
Miami Waterkeeper launched a fertilizer education campaign with the support of the NOAA Habitat Focus Area program. Part of this campaign includes a legislative proposal for fertilizer regulation. The main features of Miami Waterkeeper’s proposed fertilizer ordinance include: (1) a summer blackout period for fertilizer application; (2) 0% Phosphorus and 50% slow release Nitrogen in fertilizer mix; (3) a mandatory 15 ft setback zone for fertilizer application near waterways and storm drains; (4) education and registration provisions for commercial applicators; and (5) penalties for non-compliance. Numerous counties and municipalities in Florida have already passed similar fertilizer ordinances including North Bay Village, the Village of Key Biscayne, the Village of Islamorada, and most recently the City of Miami.
With the passing of these ordinances, there have been some questions circulating on enforcement.
How can we enforce a fertilizer ordinance?
In terms of enforcement, this ordinance can be enforced just as any other provision of municipal code would be enforced. Municipal code enforcement officers should be trained to recognize unlawful fertilizer use and environmental indicators of such practices, such as algae blooms or fish kills. Code enforcement officers can conduct inspections or respond to calls of ordinance violations and issue citations as the municipality deems appropriate.
Miami Waterkeeper recommends that landscaping companies that apply fertilizer should be required to register with the municipality and renew their registration annually. In order to register, managers and employees would have to complete the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ training offered by the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Science Sciences. Additionally, registrants would receive a sticker listing the expiration date to display on their work vehicle or to carry with them on the job. Periodic site inspections for commercial applicators should be conducted to ensure the company’s registration and compliance with the ordinance rules. The municipality should also consider providing a confidential way in which residents can report suspected ordinance violations.
For more information on fertilizer ordinance enforcement approaches, please read our full memo on the topic HERE.
Building Awareness about Fertilizer Ordinances
Miami Waterkeeper also recommends that municipalities work directly with fertilizer points of sale. For example, a municipality could require that all merchants selling fertilizer within the municipal jurisdiction to post clearly visible signs near fertilizer products stating the ordinance limitations. Municipalities are preempted from regulating the actual sale of fertilizer.
A critical piece of enforcement is building awareness around the new law. The municipality should offer educational opportunities to teach residents and businesses about the ordinance’s purpose and required provisions. Cultivating an understanding that this ordinance is critical to protect water quality can help generate community support. Miami Waterkeeper's pre-fabricated educational materials are a great place to start! Please visit www.miamiwaterkeeper.org/fertilizer to view those materials and email [email protected] to inquire about educational partnerships!