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Fertilizer restrictions increase ahead of rainy summer months

Expect fertilizer bans to be enforced locally between June 1 and Sept. 30.

TAMPA — If you live in the Tampa Bay area, it's important to pay attention to the fertilizer restrictions that are designed to keep Florida's frequent rain from washing potentially harmful nitrogen or phosphorous into the state's waterways.

In several places, those restrictions are tightened during the summer months.

The fertilizers can cause algae blooms and kill fish. According to Florida Today, Tampa Bay's water quality has improved since fertilizer ordinances took effect.

Between June 1 and Sept. 30, fertilizer bans are in place in Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties, along with the city of Tampa. Other counties don't have bans for specific dates, but they do have restrictions based on weather conditions.

"Pinellas County Environmental Management and the various municipalities enforce this countywide ordinance," a Pinellas County spokesperson told 10News. "When fines are issued by the county, they are case specific, based on the extent of the violation and the potential for environmental harm. These fines can range up to $10,000 per violation per day."

The ordinances affect residents who self-apply fertilizers, as well as professional landscapers who use the products. A spokesperson for Manatee County told 10News its environmental protection division helps enforce the county's ordinance, with help from code enforcement officers.

The city of Tampa said its inspectors check stores that carry fertilizer to make sure the businesses are in compliance with the city ordinance that prohibits retailers from selling fertilizer that contains any amounts of nitrogen or phosphorous during the restricted season. A city spokesperson said each district will assign someone to inspect fertilizer sellers once a month until Sept. 30.

In the meantime, you can use products with double zeroes on the fertilizer label, and use plants that are Florida-friendly. Penalties for violating your local ordinance depend on how often your cited and how serious the offense may be. In Pinellas County, if you don't pay a fine, the county legally could go as far as putting a lien on your home. If you see somebody using a banned product, call your local code enforcement officers to check it out.

Last fall, North Port and Venice asked their homeowners to voluntarily give up products with nitrogen or phosphorous. Pinellas County has a new public service announcement, asking people not to "feed the beast."