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Orange County Environment

Orange County Commission approves new rules for fertilizer use

Updated ordinance aims to curb water pollution, protect natural water bodies


The Orange County Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted to update its Fertilizer Management Ordinance to further prevent nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient pollution from entering County water bodies.

“This ordinance is one of many steps in the direction we are headed to keep pollutants out of water bodies,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings. 

Changes to the ordinance include a ban on using a fertilizer that contains nitrogen or phosphorus during the summer months.

Other changes include:

  • Increased application setback distances from natural water bodies
  • A reduction in the rate of nitrogen application throughout the year
  • A requirement that any nitrogen-containing fertilizer applied to yards and landscapes contain at least 65 percent slow-release nitrogen, among other provisions

“Updating the County’s ordinance is an important measure that will help protect our rivers, lakes, and springs from nutrient pollution caused by excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers,” said Julie Bortles, Regulatory Program Coordinator for Orange County’s Environmental Protection Division.

The Board’s unanimous approval on Tuesday is part of a multi-pronged approach to improve Orange County’s water quality and meet state-mandated requirements to reduce nutrient pollution from underground septic systems. Changes go into effect on June 1, 2022.

Orange County Commissioner Christine Moore was pleased that the new ordinance would preserve Orange County lakes and rivers.

"While we need to share more information about how harmful nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizers and human waste impact water and springs with the public - we must also reduce the leaching of nutrients during wet summer months," said Moore, who represents District 2, which includes Apopka. "However, it pains me that citizens could fire professionals and over-fertilize on their own. I for one will keep employing my same lawn care company and recognize while my grass might not be as green, I'm helping preserve our lakes and rivers. I will also lead through my neighborhood leaders' group discussions on the benefit of Florida-friendly landscaping."

Orange County last updated its fertilizer rules in July 2017. Those rules banned phosphorus application year-round unless a soil deficiency was demonstrated, and banned applying fertilizer with nitrogen during the summer.

At the time, it granted exceptions to trained commercial and residential applicators. County Commissioners in 2017 directed Orange County staff to investigate the sources of nutrient pollution in groundwater. Studies that were concluded in 2021, showed high levels of nitrates from fertilizer in groundwater and detected some increases in those levels during the summer rainy season.

Orange County, Orange County Board of County Commissioners, Environment, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Orange County Commissioner Christine Moore, Green Algae, Fertilizer


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