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Orange County plans stricter limits on lawn fertilizer use

Water samples from wells in northwest Orange County show levels far above the total maximum daily load of nitrogen allowed by the state. Chart: Orange County

Orange County is developing stricter limits on lawn fertilizer to reduce excessive nitrogen in groundwater, lakes and springs.

Staff members laid out their plan during a commission meeting Tuesday.

Chart: Orange County

A years-long study of nitrogen in groundwater from the northwest part of Orange County near Wekiwa Springs shows levels far exceeding the limits allowed by the state.

And high nutrient levels have damaged many of the county’s water bodies.

Urban fertilizer is a major cause of the problem.

The county plans to limit annual fertilizer use to 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet, less than the 4 pounds allowed in Pinellas and Miami-Dade.

The new ordinance also would mandate a 65% slow-release fertilizer, prohibit fertilizing new lawns in the first 30 days, and drop an exemption that lets lawn companies avoid the summertime ban on fertilizer use.

Commissioner Nicole Wilson noted that county voters last year affirmed the importance of water.

“So anything that we do here to strengthen the protection is really a voter mandate,” she said.

Environmentalists backed the plan. A representative of lawn care and gardening company Scotts Miracle-Gro supported it, too, but not the 2-pound limit or the restrictions for new lawns.

The commission is expected to take up the new ordinance in February.

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Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes


Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.