Pinellas County and Cities to Restrict Nitrogen Fertilizers
by Bill Lopez
LARGO - In February 2008, the Largo City Commission approved a Resolution for a Declaration of Cooperation with the Tampa Bay Nitrogen Consortium. The purpose of the Consortium is to unify public and private entities known to discharge nitrogen into Tampa Bay on a proactive solution to reducing nitrogen levels.
Irvin Kety, Environmental Services Director with the City of Largo, told Largo commissions during a work session Tuesday that the Consortium seeks to reduce nitrogen loading in Tampa Bay and has developed a model fertilizer ordinance for consideration by cities and counties.
The model ordinance would restrict fertilizer type, as well as locations and times of application. Largo staff believes that for a fertilizer ordinance to be effective, it must be adopted regionally, with the support of all cities and counties within the Tampa Bay area.
Nitrogen is one of the most abundant elements. About 80 percent of the air we breathe is nitrogen. Nitrogen is found in the cells of all living things and is a major component of proteins. Nitrogen-containing compounds act as nutrients in streams, rivers, and reservoirs. The major routes of entry of nitrogen into bodies of water are municipal and industrial wastewater, septic tanks, feedlot discharges, animal wastes (including birds and fish), runoff from fertilized agricultural fields and lawns and discharges from car exhausts.
The major impact of nitrates/nitrites on fresh water bodies is that of enrichment or fertilization called eutrophication. Nitrates stimulate the growth of algae and other plankton which provide food for higher organisms (invertebrates and fish); however an excess of nitrogen can cause over-production of plankton and as they die and decompose they use up the oxygen which causes other oxygen-dependent organism to die.
Kety indicated Pinellas County is reviewing information about nitrogen restrictions and plans to have a uniform code recommendation in time for the 2010 rainy season. He said the alternative to being in the consortium is to be reactive to mandates by the Environmental Protection Agency with enforcement authority under the Clean Water Act. The Consortium's activities have resulted in the collaboration of more than 25 public and private partners to develop fair and equitable nitrogen loading allocations for more than 80 permitted sources throughout the Tampa Bay Watershed by July 2009.
The proposed nitrogen allocation recognizes the relationship between rainfall and total nitrogen loading rates for Tampa Bay. The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for Tampa Bay was approved by FDEP as the average annual nitrogen loading for 1992--1994.
An adjustment to account for rainfall would allow loads to be “normalized” to the 1992-1994 rainfall adjusted load and provide for fair and equitable allocations.
When the county finalizes its recommendations, an ordinance will be drafted for review of the Largo City Commission.
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