Water-Related News

Seminole County Commission enacts new fertilizer ordinance

News Image

Stormwater runoff is a major source of pollution flowing into our natural waterbodies. Seminole County Board of County Commissioners approved a "NEW" Fertilizer Ordinance, effective February 28, 2017, that regulates fertilizers containing nitrogen and/or phosphorous and provides specific management guidelines for fertilizer application in order to minimize negative impacts to our natural waterbodies. Enforcement of the Fertilizer Ordinance will not begin until October 1, 2017. This ordinance is only for unincorporated Seminole County at this time.

Key Highlights of the Fertilizer Ordinance

  • Fertilizer containing nitrogen or phosphorous cannot be applied to turf during the restricted season from June 1st – September 30th. Fertilizers containing Iron, Manganese and other "micronutrients" also referred to as "summer blends" can be applied during the restricted season to keep lawns healthy and green (as recommended by Florida Yards Neighborhood/Florida Friendly Landscape Program).
  • Fertilizer containing nitrogen that is used during the non-restricted season (October 1st – May 31st) must contain at least 50% or more slow release nitrogen. This slow release nitrogen content will increase to 65%, three (3) years after adoption of the Fertilizer Ordinance to allow time for educational outreach to residents and retailers.
  • Fertilizer containing phosphorus cannot be applied to turf or plants unless a state certified soil or tissue test verifies that there is a phosphorus deficiency. For more information about soil & tissue testing, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office at 407-665-5560. Click here for more information on Soil & Tissue Testing requirements.
  • Use of deflector shields are required when applying fertilizer if you are using a broadcast or rotary spreader.
  • No fertilizer may be applied within fifteen (15) feet of any pond, lake, stream, canal, or other waterbody, including wetlands.

Residents should apply only the amount of fertilizer needed, and should learn to read a fertilizer bag. Click here for instructions on how to properly calculate the percentage of slow release nitrogen in your fertilizer based on the bag's label.

The county also has a fertilizer calculator to help residents figure out how much to use. Click here to have access to that calculator.

Dry weather causes Seminole County to enact countywide burn ban

News Image

On March 29, Seminole County Fire Department and Seminole County Office of Emergency Management enacted a countywide Burn Ban in accordance with County Code, Section. 85.24:

The countywide, mandatory Burn Ban prohibits all outdoor burning that has not been specifically permitted by the Florida Forest Service. Bon fires, campfires, and the burning of vegetative (yard) debris is not allowed at this time.

The Burn Ban shall remain in effect until further notice. Any person who violates the Burn Ban can be punished either by imprisonment for a term not to exceed 60 days or a fine not to exceed $500.00 or by both.

For additional information, please call the Seminole County Office of Emergency Management, 407-665-5102. To report violation of the Burn Ban, please call the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, 407-665-6650.

Republicans lead fight to ban fracking in Florida

Citing unresolved health concerns, Florida lawmakers are weighing the fate of a measure that would ban fracking across the state.

Legislators are pushing the bill to safeguard Florida’s clean water supply, which is the drinking water source for 90 percent of Floridians and a major player in the state’s economy, from agriculture to tourism.

If passed, the bill would effectively ban any type of well stimulation technique statewide. That includes fracking — a practice that requires pumping huge volumes of chemicals, sand and water underground to split open rock formation to allow oil and gas to flow.

Environmentalists say chemicals used in the process can leak into underground water sources. Because Florida sits atop porous, spongelike sedimentary limestone, environmentalists believe it is at a higher risk of chemical leaks.

The Environmental Protection Agency concluded in 2016 that fracking poses a risk to drinking water in some circumstances, but added that a lack of information on the practice makes it hard to know how severe that risk would be.

Fix water quality or Florida tourism will suffer, fishing and boating industries warn

TALLAHASSEE — The leaders of one of the nation's largest outdoors companies, a major boat manufacturer, and tourism industry officials met with Gov. Rick Scott and legislators Wednesday to make the case that urgent action is needed to end the toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

They detailed how their industries suffered from the impact of the guacamole-looking toxic algae blooms and state of emergency last year. They offered statistics on how Florida is losing business to other states, warned about the social media buzz over Florida's bad water and suggested that if things don't turn now, it may take years to reverse.

"If Florida is known as a destination of subpar water quality or bad water, it would absolutely crush our local economy," said John Lai, representing the Lee County Development Association and the Sanibel/Captiva Chamber of Commerce. He said that one in five jobs in his region relies heavily on tourism but, in the last 30 years, he has watched "the complete degradation of Florida estuaries and water quality."

Plan that includes keeping toxic algae from waterways is now bigger and more expensive

A Senate plan to bond $1.2 billion in state funds to build a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee grew to become a $3.3 billion bonding program that would fund dozens of water projects around the state — from sewage treatment in Tampa Bay to wastewater treatment in the Florida Keys — all in an attempt to win wider approval for the top priority of Senate President Joe Negron.

Despite the modifications, the 5-1 vote of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee for SB 10 is closer than it appeared. Many supporters expressed reservations that the expensive plan to store water is the most cost-effective solution to prevent discharges of polluted water from the lake into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries after those discharges led to guacamole-looking toxic algae blooms and a state emergency announced by Gov. Rick Scott in the spring and summer of 2016.

Florida scientists fear hurricane forecasts, climate research will suffer under Trump

A growing chorus of scientists is raising the alarm over reports of Trump administration budgets cuts that would affect climate change research and hurricane forecasting.

On Monday, 32 Florida scientists sent a letter to the president voicing worry over reports that the Department of Commerce, which overseas the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has proposed cutting 17 percent from its budget, with the nation’s network of satellites taking the biggest hit. The satellites include a system of polar orbiters that provide critical data from the top and bottom of the planet and help scientists understand two of the biggest threats facing the peninsula.

Bill to strengthen pollution notification rules advances in Florida Senate

A Senate committee in Tallahassee unanimously passed a bill that would set standards for how to swiftly notify the public about pollution. It’s an issue residents in the Tampa Bay Area have grown weary of.

It's pouring rain in downtown Tampa. Standing just outside Port Tampa Bay, you can see towering cargo ships, rumbling trucks and equipment.

Justin Bloom is Executive Director of Suncoast Waterkeeper, an environmental advocacy group. He says most commercial industries like those operating at the port are highly regulated to ensure environmental safety precautions are in place.

“But extraordinary events happen, and sometimes these safety measures are ignored,” Bloom said. “You know, look at what happened with Mosaic, for example.”

It's a reference to last August, when a massive sinkhole opened under a gypsum stack at a Mosaic phosphate fertilizer plant in Polk County. 215 million gallons of contaminated water dumped into the Floridian aquifer – and it was weeks before the public knew about it.

Bloom says while that was and is a serious concern, a more significant threat is constant storm water runoff. The day-to-day pollutants on our lawns, sidewalks and driveways – not to mention toilets – on a rainy day like this, often end up in our water, especially in the summer.

Bill that would ban fracking in Florida passes Senate committee

The Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee unanimously passed landmark legislation Tuesday that would permanently prohibit fracking in Florida.

Senate bill 442, which passed by a vote of 5 to 0, already has bipartisan support from 15 Senate co-sponsors. The bill would ban unconventional “well stimulation” techniques including acid fracking and matrix acidizing.

Fracking is a method that fractures rock apart with a high-pressure mixture of water, chemicals and sand so that gas and oil are more easily released. Environmental groups disdain it because of the need for large amounts of water, and what they claim is toxic impact.

Companies vie for job of clearing phosphorous from Seminole County's Lake Jesup

While phosphorous isn’t a hazard in drinking water, experts say it’s a deadly danger for aquatic life, and in Seminole County’s Lake Jesup it’s becoming a serious problem.

The lake has been deemed dirtier than Lake Apopka and residents worry that could mean an end to fishing as the chemical pushes oxygen out of the water.

Lake Jesup phosphorous project manager Mike Cullum said companies from as far away as Australia just wrapped up a two-day competition in Maitland aimed at addressing the problem.

Scientists have spent years trying to clean phosphorous out of Lake Apopka, using everything from chemicals to natural filters.

There is money out there for cleanup efforts, but the funds are limited and need to be used in the most effective manner, Cullum said.

“We have public dollars and we need to make sure we spend those dollars wisely,” he said. “It took many, many years to get the lake to where it is now and it’s going to take a few years to get back to a healthy level.”

The state has analyzed the water at Lake Jesup and determined that phosphorous levels need to be cut in half. The companies that attended the recent competition were working on an effective way to do that.

Each body of water is different and you have to “create a prescription that’s specific to the lake,” said Dr. Erich Marzolf with the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Determining what the prescription is could take several more months, but technology is key, Marzolf said.

The Water Management District is planning to bring back up to three of the companies that participated in the competition and give them four years to remove the excess phosphorous.

Trump takes aim at WOTUS rule

The “Waters of the United States” rule (WOTUS) was the definitive water-policy achievement of the Obama administration. Proponents said it clarified which waterways could be regulated by the federal government under the Clean Water Act. Jurisdiction under the law had become obscured by court decisions, WOTUS supporters said.

The rule has been in Republican crosshairs for years. President Trump strongly opposed it during his campaign. The agriculture industry and the GOP say the rule amounts to government overreach.

WOTUS is currently unenforceable due to court action. “A court stayed [WOTUS] days after it was finalized,” E&E News reported. “The Supreme Court agreed last month to take up the challenge brought by more than 30 states and many industry and farm groups,” the publication said.

Now Trump is getting ready to do away with the policy. The Washington Post reported this week that Trump is preparing an executive order to kill the regulation.

Trump begins dismantling Obama’s EPA rules today. First up: the Clean Water Rule

At first glance, it’s hard to see why the Clean Water Rule (also known as the “Waters of the US rule”) inspires such fury. It’s a technical regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency meant to clarify which streams and wetlands fall under federal clean water protections — a question that had been causing legal confusion for years.

But when the rule was published in June 2015, it triggered fierce blowback from farm and industry groups across the country. “Opponents condemn it as a massive power grab by Washington,” Politico reported, “saying it will give bureaucrats carte blanche to swoop in and penalize landowners every time a cow walks through a ditch.” Many of those criticisms were overblown, but the rule was widely cited by conservatives as a prime example of EPA overreach under President Obama. (The regulation is currently being tied up in court and hasn’t taken effect yet.)

Now Donald Trump wants to get rid of the rule — a first step in his ongoing efforts to dismantle Obama-era EPA protections. On Tuesday, he signed an executive order that asks new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to begin the long process of repealing the rule and replacing it with... something else.

Except here’s the catch: Rolling back this rule won’t be easy to do. By law, Pruitt has to go through the formal federal rulemaking process and replace Obama’s regulation with his own version — and then defend it in court as legally superior. And, as Pruitt’s about to find out, figuring out which bodies of water deserve protection is a maddeningly complex task that could take years.

Seminole County Commissioners approve new fertilizer ordinance

After months of tweaking, county commissioners voted Tuesday afternoon on new fertilizer rules that will affect anyone with a yard.

Seminole county commission chambers were filled with some happy, clean water advocates after commissioners voted in favor of a fertilizer ordinance. The ordinance favors a statewide rule, but with changes specific to the county.

"We're going to teach people how to properly fertilize and when's the best time to fertilize, when not to fertilize, in order to try to protect our water bodies," said Kim Ornberg, division manager for Watershed Management and Public Works with Seminole County.

The main priority is to offer education on how to keep your lawn green while being environmentally wise.

The physical changes come into play between June 1 and Sept. 30. Between those months, you can't use fertilizer that contains certain elements.

"During that time in order to minimize the amount of leaching of nutrients, nitrogen phosphates getting into our rivers and streams we won't allow fertilizers to be applied to residential areas that contain them," Ornberg said.

Big lawn players like True Green and Scott's Miracle Grow were at the meeting. They agree with taking an environmentally safe approach but question the summer blackout dates.

For now, the ordinance stands, but that doesn't mean amendments aren't an option in the future.

The ordinance takes effect immediately. However, enforcement won't kick in until Oct. 1. Even so, county leaders said they are going to take more of an educational approach rather than immediately slapping offenders with a $50 fine.

Learn more about the ordinance »