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Monday, Mar 30, 2015

More education about fertilizer ordinance underway


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— Hernando County officials have spent the last six months educating people about a new fertilizer ordinance that restricts application to certain times of the year.

It’s working well so far, said planner Pat McNeese. But before the enforcement phase of the law kicks in, McNeese said, the county will make another concerted effort to get the word out so people won’t be caught unaware or fined.

To that end, McNeese said staffers plan to contact home improvement and other stores that sell fertilizer and pesticides so employees there also can become more knowledgeable about which products to show customers and inform them of the new regulations.

McNeese said there will be a second round of promoting the ordinance, via the county extension office website or outreach to citizens with mailings or telephone calls.

“Overall the feedback has been positive,” McNeese told county commissioners at their Tuesday meeting.

Commissioners listened while McNeese spoke about the progress of implementing the ordinance.

Ron Pianta, assistant county administrator for planning and development, said the education process has been a team effort among various departments.

The fertilizer ordinance regulates how, where and when fertilizers may be applied to plants and grass. It includes a limited application season from Jan. 1 through March 31.

During that period, only professional applicators who are trained, certified and registered according to the terms of the ordinance may apply fertilizer.

The only forms of nitrogen fertilizer that may be applied are those labeled as slow- or controlled-release. The applicator must be able to verify the fertilizer product used and provide verification upon request.

Commissioners enacted the ordinance largely to prevent more damage to the water quality of Weeki Wachee Springs and the Weekiwachee River, both of which have been listed as “verified impaired due to nutrients” by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Studies conducted by the environmental department and the Southwest Florida Water Management District have determined the primary cause of nitrogen pollution comes from inappropriate fertilizer use. When applied incorrectly, excess nutrients wash off lawns into neighboring water bodies, causing excessive algae growth and stressing aquatic insects, amphibians and fish.

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