Save Florida from Nitrogen Pollution

Protect Florida wildlife from unregulated nitrogen over-fertilization and discharging.

Stop Nitrogen Pollution of Indian River Lagoon and Florida Coastal Waters

Student Drawing of waterway with patches of green algae and animals with x's in eyes

When we successfully rallied in Stuart, Florida, to stop the state from stripping Martin County of the ability to regulate lawn fertilization practices, I made the evening TV news because I held up this drawing as testimony of what would happen if we did not stop the summer nitrogen pollution of coastal waters. 

Martin is one of five counties that embrace Indian River Lagoon. To reduce eutrophication, harmful algal bloom and slimy beaches, the other four counties should act in concert with Martin County.  Yet these counties are meeting stiff opposition.  One county chairperson went so far as to tell middle school students following their science presentation on nitrogen pollution that they were promoting “totalitarianism” when they urged a summer lawn ban (consistent with commercial best practices).

Indian Lagoon dolphins wave ride by Capt Nan

Take action for all counties to enact effective lawn fertilizer ordinances that reduce nitrogen pollution.  Your letters, even if from out state or Canada, carry much weight because this region is dependent on tourism and wants to be known for clean beaches.  Please take a moment to write to us why you care about these waters and beaches.  We will make sure you sound good, organize and deliver by hand printed letters addressed to each individual chairperson. 

It should be a right of Indian River Lagoon residents to take a lawn fertilizing holiday June 1 to Sept 30 to save money, effort, beaches, and to save the Lagoon!

Sign onto ORI’s letter and please add a few words of your own as to why you care about a fertilizer bill.

Megan Stolen retrieves a dead dolphin from the Indian River LagoonThe letter

Dear County Commission Chairpersons: Chuck Nelson (Brevard), Joseph E. Flescher (Indian River), Tod Mowery (St. Lucie), and Steven L. Abrams (Palm Beach),

I am writing to urge you to take action to help Florida's Indian River Lagoon dolphins. In 2008, the bottlenose dolphins of the Lagoon were dying at such an alarming rate that the situation was declared a "marine mammal unusual mortality event." 2009 was another year with more than forty dolphins dead during the summer. The dolphins' bodies are being found emaciated, with little or no food in their stomachs, suffering from respiratory problems, skin-eating fungal infection, tumors and brain lesions.

Excessive nitrogen is contributing to the death of dolphins along with bacteria, metals and mercury. Mercury in waterways becomes more lethal due to a chemical reaction with fertilizers.  Excess nutrients lead to toxic algal blooms and "red tides." Dolphin deaths were at their highest when Nitrogen (nutrients) and Chlorophyll A (algae) levels were at their highest.  Local residents are upset with the increases in recent years of algal slime on beaches and fowling waterways.

Nitrogen pollution has become a problem due to expanding fertilizer use.  Vast amounts are applied to lawns because fertilizer, bagged for the nation, carry labels that instruct to spread in the spring, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and in the fall.  Well intentioned landowners are apt to buy the biggest bag just to be sure.  

Land for agricultural use was found to increase nutrient loading by 100%. However the same land for suburban dwellings increase nutrient loading by 500%. If applied during summer rains, nitrogen washed unchecked into waterways. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the Indian River Lagoon receives over 3 millions pounds of nitrogen per year. This is over 1 million pounds in excess than can be absorbed.  More harmful than the annual load of nitrogen is the feeding of algae during the warm summer months when day light length is the longest of the year. Our concern is episodic. Don’t pollute with nitrogen during the summer months. How much fertilizer is used at other times of year is less of a concern.  

We can greatly reduce nutrient pollution in the Indian River Lagoon and lessen our subsequent role in the death of the lagoon dolphins by not using fertilizers with quick release nitrogen. When needed fertilizers with at least 50% slow release (timed) nitrogen should be used.

What a shame to foul with green slime and harmful algal blooms America's most diverse, species-rich estuary. We urge you to enact an ordinance that is consistent with Martin County’s that takes three steps:

  • Respect setbacks from waterways and do not fertilize the portions of lawns within the setback.
  • Use at least 50% slow release (timed) nitrogen,
  • Grant us a Lawn Fertilizing Holiday; ban the application of fertilizers to established lawns from June 1 to Sept 30th.

With a lawn fertilizing holiday we all will save money, save time and effort. Combined with respect for setbacks and the use of slow release nitrogen, we all may enjoy less slimy beaches and seafood,  see cleaner waters, and save the dolphins of Indian River Lagoon!

Thank you for your responsible stewardship,

Sincerely, your name and contact info.

Take Action: Sign ORI's letter. Tell County Commissioners of the other Indian River Lagoon counties why it’s important, for the love of the dolphins and seagrasses, to ban the excessive and unnecessary use of turf fertilizers.

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In This Section

WPBF Video: Rob and Others Rally in Stuart Florida Stop HB421


Video: Rob is interviewed about the green slime that choked Florida, Cleaner water and green lawns.


The Florida Independent: House subcommittee advances fertilizer regulation loophole


Herald Tribune: Pre-empting summer fertilizer ban would be costly mistake


Tell Florida's Governor to Not Strip County regulation of lawncare practices.


HB 421


Capt Nan Beaver, Jim Egan, George Jones and Commissioner Patrick Hayes talk about saving IRL with Rob.


“Martin County’s new fertilizer rule cracks down on nitrogen, phosphorus” article in Palm Beach Post, 7/27/11


Rob talks with Stephen McCulloch, about unprecedented dolphins deaths due to the toxic soup they live in on Moir's Environmental Dialogues


Rob talks with Dr. Greg Bossart, Indian River Lagoon dolphin diseases expert on Moir's Environmental Dialogues.


MRC Who is Killing Lagoon Dolphins?


Reduced river phosphorus following implementation of a lawn fertilizer ordinance.


"source control is the most cost effective solution to address the adverse ecologic and economic impacts of excessive nutrients on Florida's waterways, estuaries and coastal waters."  FL Dept of Water Resources


Florida state government moves to prevent counties from passing tougher ordinances on use of lawn fertilizers and attempts to abolish the local county ordinances already in place!  ORI campaign, with your help, contributes to state instead ruling that counties may regulate use of fertilizer. Counties may not regulate the sale of fertilizers.


Look for ORI’s Facebook Ad

Save Dolphins Dying in Florida

Dolphins are suffering from polluted waterways and coasts.

Defend dolphins! Clean up our oceans and rivers.


ORI Partners

Indian River Keeper

The Rivers Coalition: Save Our Rivers, Stop the Dischages!

ORCA, Ocean Resources and Conservation Association

The Marine Resources Council of East Florida

Florida Oceanographic Society

South Florida Audubon Society Conservation Report

Related Links

Dolphin Facts

Facts About Dolphins

EPA's plan to set water-quality standards in Florida, a national first

EPA “Water Quality Standards for the State of Florida’s Lakes and Flowing Waters”

Dolphin Photos

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