The Village of Islamorada in the Florida Keys is the first municipality in Monroe County to pass an ordinance specifically related to the regulation of fertilizer. The measure passed unanimously last week and goes into effect immediately.
As you may have seen, Miami Waterkeeper has been hard at work on drafting a model fertilizer ordinance that is specific to South Florida! According to Souto et al. (2019), residential lawn fertilization is estimated to be the second-largest source of household nitrogen in the US. When excess nutrients from fertilizers, like nitrogen and phosphorus, enter water systems, environmental problems like algae blooms can occur. Algae blooms are not only visually unappealing, but they can also clog waterways, lead to fish kills, smell foul, and public health hazard.
In Florida, 86 municipalities and 32 counties have passed fertilizer ordinances since 2007. Just over half of the municipal ordinances include a rainy season ban. Monroe and Miami-Dade counties are some of the last within the region without ordinances in place. However, the Village of Islamorada took the first steps in improving nearshore water quality this week by unanimously passing a fertilizer ordinance.
In short, the fertilizer ordinance restricts the application of fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus during the summer/rainy months of June to September annually. Additionally, the ordinance has set a setback zone of 15ft, meaning no fertilizer can be applied within 15ft of any canal, shoreline, or wetland. The application of fertilizer is also prohibited before major storm or flood events.
In addition to fertilizer, the ordinance prevents grass clippings and vegetative debris from being washed, swept or blown into storm drains, ditches, roads or canals. This further helps prevent excess nutrients from entering our waterways.
The Village Council plans to reach out to other municipalities in the area to encourage the adoption of a fertilizer ordinance Keys-wide.
“The Village of Islamorada Council is intimately familiar with the impact of water quality on the economy and the environment of the Florida Keys,” said Miami Waterkeeper General Counsel Kelly Cox “that’s why they’re taking concrete steps to address fertilizers as a land-based source of pollution.”
Miami Waterkeeper commends the Village leadership for moving forward with this legislation and looks forward to working with The Village of Islamorada and their resident as we implement an educational effort related to the new fertilizer requirements!
For more information on our efforts related to fertilizer regulation and education, please visit www.miamiwaterkeeper.org/fertilizer.