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Lee County fertilizer ban in place to keep added nutrients out of the Caloosahatchee

Posted at 7:43 PM, Jun 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-01 19:43:31-04

It’s time to put the fertilizer away and keep it in the garage for a few months.

Starting Tuesday — Lee County is banning the use of fertilizers with phosphorus or nitrogen. The goal is to keep those nutrients from getting into the Caloosahatchee River and feeding the blue green algae.

Whether you’re down in Fort Myers or up at the Davis Boat Ramp, you can see signs of that algae right now.

"It’s all over the place right now," said Professor Barry Rosen at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Rosen said it will keep being all over the place unless the algae gets starved of nutrients.

“70 percent of the nutrients that feed the Caloosahatchee come from that local watershed. Only 30 percent would be considered coming from Lake Okeechobee," said Rosen.

That means most of the food the algae eats comes from us, and our fertilizer, but Kurt Harclerode with the Lee County Department of Natural Resources said, there’s an easy way to look at your fertilizer and make sure you’re not adding to the problem.

"Look for those three numbers that are on any bag of fertilizer. The first two are going to be phosphorus and nitrogen. As long as those two numbers read zero zero, you’re good to go," said Harclerode.

Harclerode said the County does enforce the ordinance, but most of the time, it relies on people to do the right thing.

"If you see it, or if it’s reported to us, we’ll follow up on it, but again I’d like to emphasize education is the tool, the main tool to get people to change their behaviors. Do what’s right for the region," said Harclerode.

Because if people don’t do what’s right, blue green algae won’t be going anywhere.

"It will flow into the Caloosahatchee, it will feed the algae blooms," said Rosen.

The ban will be in place until September 30th.

One concern the County is monitoring is something called the "first flush”. That’s when Lee County gets it’s first major rainfall, washing any excess fertilizer on the ground into the river. If people follow the ban, the hope is very little fertilizer will be left to feed the algae.