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Sierra Club fights for continued rainy season fertilizer ban | News

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Sierra Club fights for continued rainy season fertilizer ban
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St. Petersburg, Florida - With sailboats on Tampa Bay as a background, Sierra Club members worry about fertilizer bills now sailing through committees in Tallahassee.

"Who would benefit from this legislation? No one, except the pest control and fertilizer companies," said the Sierra Club's Cris Costello at a morning news conference.

If passed, Senate Bill 604 and House Bill 421 would allow lawn care companies to apply fertilizer during the rainy season-essentially gutting local ordinances with summer fertilizer bans.

"The rainy season ban is the backbone of meaningful fertilizer management," said Costello.

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups are so concerned about this, because they say nutrient runoff is hurting area lakes, Tampa Bay and the Gulf. They believe when fertilizer containing nitrogen and phosphorous is applied during the rainy season, much of it is washed into streets, down drains and eventually into Tampa Bay and the Gulf.

Researchers say fertilizer runoff is responsible for the thick layer of muck in upper Tampa Bay and the algae blooms that harm seagrass growth. Links have also been found between nutrient pollution and Red Tide in the Gulf.

But the fertilizer and lawn care industry says the local regulations hurt business and are unnecessary. A spokesman for Scotts LawnService says in a written statement that the legislation provides a "narrow exemption for trained lawn care professionals" to apply fertilizer and to allow "our industry to operate year-around in a safe and economically sustainable way," writes Lee Schaber.

But at Friday's news conference, the Sierra Club showed photographs taken by Pinellas County staff that appear to show lawn care workers applying chemicals while it's raining.

Photo Gallery: Sierra Club's pictures of fertilizing while raining

"Despite the provisions of the local ordinance and despite basic common sense, these companies sent employees to apply fertilizer during a rainstorm," says Costello.

However, a spokesman for Massey Services says the Sierra Club statements are misleading. In a statement Adam Jones writes that the photo does not show their technician doing anything wrong, that the technician was "inspecting and treating the ornamental landscape shrubs. No fertilizer application was made to the property depicted in the photograph."

The Senate bill has another committee hearing on Monday, February 6th and the Sierra Club is urging people to write and call their lawmakers.  

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