Orange County officials ban nitrogen, phosphorous fertilizer use during summer

Orange County officials approved a series of new rules that will govern fertilize use across the area.

The Orange County Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted to update its fertilizer management ordinance during Tuesday’s meeting of the Orange County Commission.

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

The approved ordinance places a ban during the summer months on the use of fertilizer that contains nitrogen or phosphorus.

In addition to the ban, commissioners approved an increase in the application setback distances from natural waterbodies, a reduction in the rate of nitrogen application throughout the year, and a requirement that any nitrogen-containing fertilizer applied to yards and landscapes contain at least 65 percent slow-release nitrogen.

“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 changes will go into effect beginning June 1 of this year. According to officials, 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.

Orange County staff investigated the sources of nutrient pollution in groundwater and additional studies were conducted in 2021 showing high levels of nitrates from fertilizer in groundwater and increases in those levels during the summer rainy season.

To learn more, visit Orange County’s fertilizer management and water quality protection efforts webpage.

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