October 2021 – Fertilizer application is considered a significant contributor to the excessive nutrient loadings of our water ways, including the Hillsborough River and Tampa Bay. These excessive nutrients can cause algae blooms that can deplete oxygen and cloud the water causing problems for wildlife and seagrasses. In one of its worst cases it can contribute to red tide events. Several years ago there was a wave of local government fertilizer ordinances adopted prior to a preemption by the State of Florida. At that time local governments chose between a number of details of their local ordinances. One of those details was a ban on the sale and/or application of fertilizer during the rainy season. Rainy season application of fertilizer is considered problematic because heavy rains can wash recently applied fertilizer into the water ways. At the time, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), against a recommendation of the River Board, elected not to include in their ordinance a rainy season sale or application ban.
The BOCC is now considering updating the fertilizer ordinance to include a rainy season ban on application, due in large part to the recent red tide event and ongoing nutrient impairment of waterways justifying such a change. The Hillsborough River Interlocal Planning Board’s Technical Advisory Council recently reviewed this issue and was in favor of an update to strengthen the county’s fertilizer ordinance to reduce nutrient pollution. The River Board will discuss the proposal at their October 25 regular meeting.