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Commentary: Stronger fertilizer ordinance can affect red tide

Red tide feeds off nutrients in the water, and the second greatest source of nutrients in Collier County is runoff from lawns and landscaping. (Agricultural uses is No. 1). There is a way that we can make a difference in how much nutrient reaches the Gulf of Mexico: strengthening and enforcing our fertilizer ordinances.

Currently, Collier County uses the state standard ordinance. The city of Naples, which used to have a more stringent ordinance, regressed back to the state ordinance in 2017. There is a meeting of the Collier County Commission and the Naples City Council on the afternoon of Feb. 5 to discuss whether a stronger ordinance is needed.

The answer, in simple terms, is yes. The ways in which the standard ordinance should be strengthened are as follows:

1. Include a blackout period from June 1 to Sept. 30 during which fertilizer should not be used. Prior to the summer rainy season, granular, long-acting fertilizer can be applied that will last through the summer, slowly releasing its nutrients.

2. Maximum application of 4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year for all turfgrass. The state model ordinance can allow up to 7 pounds of nitrogen application for certain turfgrass species.

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Hushon, Ph.D., has over 40 years of experience in health and environmental consulting with a specialty in environmental transport and fate of pollutants. She is on the Conservancy of Southwest Florida board and the League of Women Voters of Collier County Environment Committee.