Can lawn fertilizer make the red tide problem worse?
That is the question that scientist and politicians are asking. They both seek solutions while the latter searches for justification for red tide, as it has been one of the most devastating environmental disasters in SWFL history.
SWFL counties have banned fertilizers in rainy summer months for years. But some politicians are talking about year-round bans.
Yesterday, the vice mayor of Venice encouraged the local City Council to pass a proposal. It seeks to ban fertilizers until a solution is presented that will stop the pollution in the Gulf Coast.
Most fertilizers have nitrogen and phosphorous in them because plants love it. It helps them grow. However, Bob Daniels, the Venice vice mayor, attributes fertilizer runoff as a year-round problem that has significantly contributed to red tide.
A couple scientists Hello SWFL spoke with say not so fast.
They told us plants absorb nitrogen and phosphorous before the water runoff hits rivers, streams and canals.
They don’t believe your fertilizer is feeding blue-green algae .
“It is relatively easy to do these fertilizer bans and changes in policies around the state, but guess what?" Brian LaPointe said, who is a scientist at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. "The blooms are worsening."
So where are these nutrients coming from that are feeding the blooms?
“We are making progress in dealing with fertilizers with both the farmers and urban and residential areas," LaPointe said. "What we aren’t doing a good job at is improving wastewater infrastructure. We need to make sure the nutrients — nitrogen and phosphorus — are removed from the plants.”
The law fertilizer petitions seem to be gathering some steam.
But before you sign on and cut out fertilizer, we wanted you to know what we found. Everywhere Hello SWFL has asked over months of in-depth reporting, has led it to the conclusion that there is no obvious, simple fix to the complex algae problem.