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).
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!
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.