Orange County approves stricter fertilizer rules to curb water pollution

Use of nitrogen, phosphorus fertilizers to be banned in summer, county says

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The Orange County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to enact a stricter fertilizer ordinance to curb water pollution, according to a news release.

The ordinance calls for a “summer blackout,” in which the use of fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorous will be banned yearly from June 1 to Sept. 30, with few exceptions, the release said.

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The size of fertilizer-free zones next to bodies of water will be increased from 15 feet to 25 feet, and only 3 pounds of fertilizer containing nitrogen may be applied annually to every 1,000 square-feet of land, the county said. Additionally, any nitrogen-containing fertilizer applied to yards and landscapes must contain at least 65% slow-release nitrogen, the county said.

Julie Bortles, regulatory compliance program coordinator for Orange County’s Environmental Protection Division, told News 6 that nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizer pose the county’s primary pollution problem.

“Updating the county’s ordinance is an important measure that will help protect our rivers, lakes and springs from nutrient pollution caused by excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers,” Bortles said.

Recommendations to update the ordinance were brought back to the bargaining table due to recent testing that identified urban fertilizers as the primary source for nitrates in northwest Orange County’s ground water.

“The reason we did those studies in the northwest part of the county is because Wekiwa Springs is currently polluted and does not meet state water quality standards for those nutrients,” Bortles said.

The ordinance, as it currently stands, provides exemptions to “bona fide agricultural farms pursuant to the Florida Right to Farm Act,” as well as golf courses or sports turf areas at parks or athletic fields. The updated rules will allow exemptions for grazing lands and scientific research lands, as well as recommend that golf courses submit yearly proof of Green Industries Best Management Practices certification for their exemptions.

The ordinance will go into effect June 1, the county said.

Read the county’s current fertilizer management ordinance by clicking here.

About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.