Last month, the community saw unprecedented fish kill and algal blooms in the northern Biscayne Bay basin due to multiple factors, including extremely high-water temperatures, low-dissolved oxygen, increased freshwater flows from the Biscayne Canal and Little River, and an influx of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus — primary components found in many fertilizers.
In an effort to combat these nutrients from entering the city’s stormwater system, the City Commission today has unanimously passed an ordinance on first reading, which requires the use of best management practices and specific management guidelines to minimize negative secondary and cumulative environmental effects associated with the misuse of fertilizers
“These increased nutrients are one of the main pollutants that are degrading the water quality and health of Biscayne Bay — Miami Beach is committed to doing our part to protect our environment,” shared Mayor Dan Gelber.
The proposed ordinance regulates and promotes the following:
- Prohibits fertilizers from being used during the rainy season from June 1 through November 1;
- Establishes fertilizer free zones adjacent to waterways and storm drains;
- Establishes proper fertilizer application rates and methods;
- Requires proper training of commercial and institutional fertilizer applicators;
- Establishes training and licensing requirements; and
- Establishes enforcement and penalties.
Currently, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and the Public Works, Greenspace Management Division are required to apply Florida-Friendly Landscaping principles and best management practices for fertilizer application on public properties, including prohibition from using glysophate. Additionally, all city landscaping contractors are required to follow industry practices and standards found in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s “Florida-Friendly Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Resources by the Green Industries”.
“Commercial landscapers operating on private property are not currently required to abide by these standards,” explained Commissioner Michael Góngora who sponsored this item. “If this ordinance passes second reading next month, it will be a game-changer in limiting the amount of fertilizer runoff entering our bay.”
Several county and city governments in Florida that have enacted fertilizer bans to address improper fertilizer use on private properties. Manatee County, Pinellas County, Lee County, Martin County and the cities of Miami, Melbourne and Cape Coral are examples of communities that have enacted a blackout period for fertilizer use during the rainy season.
The draft ordinance was developed using template language provided by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and existing fertilizer ordinances that are in place in municipalities throughout Florida.
“This is a strong fertilizer ordinance and an important step towards limiting pollution in Biscayne Bay,” added Executive Director & Waterkeeper Rachel Silverstein with the Miami Waterkeeper. “Along with septic, sewer, and stormwater, the overuse of fertilizers contributes to algae blooms, seagrass die-offs, and the recent fish kill. I am thrilled that the City of Miami Beach is taking this important step.”