Monday, December 6, 2021

Marco Island Fertilizer Ban Begins June 1

Photos by Maria Lamb
| Possible good news? According to the chart below, nitrogen was virtually eliminated from Marco waterways during the summer fertilizer ban in 2020.

The City of Marco Island approved its own Fertilizer Ordinance in March 2016 and joined the more than 90 Florida municipalities that have adopted fertilizer ordinances since 2008. 

During the summer, Florida is known for heavy afternoon rains, which causes many pollutants from the ground to loosen and get carried to local waterbodies. Such pollutants may come from the improper application of fertilizer from our own backyards carrying high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous. It may also include untreated sewage, leaking septic tanks and animal waste.

Photos by Maria Lamb
| Grass clippings or vegetative debris left on hard surfaces will find their way into our waterbodies causing possible algae growth and fish kills.

We apply fertilizer to make the grass grow but this has the same effect on algae in our waterways and can result in algae blooms such as red tide that uses up the oxygen in the water killing fish and aquatic organisms.

According to scientists from Mote Marine, like Dr. Tracy Fanara, the Gulf of Mexico’s red tide algae (Karenia brevis) produces toxins that can kill marine life, and as the algal toxin enters the air, it can also cause respiratory irritation in humans. And it’s possible that red tide could increase in intensity if it’s close to shore and getting its nutrients from the surface water.

Bill Mitsch, Florida Gulf Coast University, Eminent Scholar and Director of the Everglades Wetland Research Park, also refers to the use of fertilizer as potentially providing fuel for red tide. After sampling the bloom’s microorganisms for the source of nitrates, Mitsch remarked “that’s what is fueling the red tide…. and I’m sorry, but Mother Nature doesn’t manufacture fertilizer, we do.”

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida refers to Marco’s Fertilizer Ordinance as the “gold standard” of fertilizer ordinances and the Conservancy believes that one of the major components of a strong fertilizer ordinance includes the rainy season ban and cap on the application of nitrogen.

Photos by Maria Lamb
| Remind your landscape services of the rainy season ban on the use of fertilizer (June 1 – September 30) or when a weather event is predicted that will include heavy rainfall.

Here are the main rules for applying fertilizer according to the City of Marco Island’s website:

Do not apply fertilizer during the rainy season (June 1 – September 30) or when a weather event is predicted that will include heavy rainfall.

Do not apply fertilizer to impervious surfaces (concrete, asphalt, pavers, etc.) or within 10 feet of a watercourse, lake, wetland, or storm drain.

Spreader deflector shields are required when fertilizing adjacent to Fertilizer Free Zones or impervious surfaces.

Do not apply phosphorous fertilizer unless a soil test has determined there is a deficiency of phosphorous.

Fertilizers must contain no less than 50-percent slow-release nitrogen.

Fertilizer may only be applied four times per year, and no more than four pounds of nitrogen may be applied per 1,000 square feet per year.

No grass clippings or vegetative debris should be blown off into storm water drains, ditches, sidewalks, and roadways.

Photos by Maria Lamb
| Spreader deflector shields are required when fertilizing adjacent to fertilizer free zones or impervious surfaces.

How soon we forget the summer of 2018 when massive harmful algae blooms (HAB) impacted the quality of Southwest Florida’s environment, quality of life and the economy. HAB’s killed thousands of sea turtles, fish, and birds. Marco Island ended 2020 and started 2021 with the appearance of large quantities of dead fish on our beaches.

Residents are concerned on red tide’s impact on human health, what’s causing it and is there a simple and cost-effective fix. Sue Oldershaw, a Marco Island resident, is asking everyone “to remind your landscape services NOT to fertilizer within 10 feet of any body of water. No one wants dead fish and green algae smelling up our beautiful waters.” In addition, Sue, being a Master Gardener, uses plants and ground covers that don’t need fertilizer.

Sara Wolf, also a Marco resident, is very mindful of the summertime ban on the use of fertilizer from June 1through September 30. According to Sara, “this summer ban not only will improve our water quality, but it will also have the effect of NOT nourishing the red tide on the Gulf.

Though Marco Island prohibits the application of fertilizers, the State allows stores to sell the products. Retail businesses within Marco Island selling fertilizer are “requested” to post a notice in a conspicuous location near the fertilizer notifying customers of this ordinance.


Photo by Jean Hall
| A painful reminder that in 2018, Southwest Florida’s high levels of red tide’s toxic algae (Karenia brevis) killed thousands of sea life and birds. Marco Island ended 2020 and started 2021 with the appearance of large quantities of dead fish on our beaches. Experts believe that the presence of fertilizer nutrients in the water provides fuel for red tide.


2 responses to “Marco Island Fertilizer Ban Begins June 1”

  1. Andrew Tyler says:

    Good article, shame that the propaganda figure on nitrogen content slipped in. First, there is no state mandate on the concentration of these nutrients, it is TOTAL NITROGEN that is regulated. Second, ant algae of any type living in the canals will gobble up these nutrients, reducing their concentration to almost zero, it is always that way, unless samples are freshly drawn. Third, claiming these figures are ‘essentially “0” shows the author of that figure has limited knowledge of biology. A concentration of 11 micrograms per liter is quite adequate to support growth of many algae species. For ‘virtually eliminated’ read ‘tolerable for modest algal growth’.
    It is not the fault of the figure’s author that the State standards are bogus to begin with, but a failure to understand growth kinetics and their effects on nutrient concentrations is inexcusable.
    Some on waterways is on a mission to paint a rosy gloss using highly selected data. Infer what you will from that, but at least include total nitrogen data alongside these cherry-picked numbers and show the whole story.

  2. Bob Roth says:

    Although the improper use of fertilizer on Marco Island is part of the cause of water quality degradation, it’s not the only (or even main) cause. Every time it rains stormwater runoff from the all of island’s impervious residential roofs, driveways and city street surfaces carries with it huge amounts of nutrients and other pollutants including Nitrogen and Phosphorus. These constituents in the improperly treated runoff feed algae and red tide with microscopic plant pollen and other organic matter as well as particulates which became suspended and cloud the water. Swales alone are not the solution. Marco City Council needs to institute better stormwater regulations for residential builders to treat roof and driveway runoff as well as institute periodic sweeping of the residential streets to remove the street dirt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *