An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Seminole County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Some fertilizers can be toxic for waterways and animals: What to do instead

SEMINOLE COUNTY – Proudly showing off her Florida-friendly landscape, an expert from the University of Florida knows in Seminole County, fertilizers with nitrogen and phosphorus can't be used on lawns from June 1 to the end of September.

"We don't use any fertilizers out here and you can see it's constantly abuzz," Tina McIntyre told WESH 2. "When used inappropriately, nitrogen and phosphorus can enter our waterways or our aquifer or our groundwater."

One of the big problems with certain fertilizers is that summer rains can wash them into waterways, creating pollution.

"Instead of feeding the plants that it's meant to enhance our landscape, and provide that plant nutrition, it actually is feeding algae or other aquatic vegetation," McIntyre said.

We've seen the extremes of algae blooms in the past. It's exactly why the Save the Manatee Club is also pushing the summer months as fertilizer-free.

"Manatees are highly dependent on what humans do to help to maintain the food source that they have," Dr. Beth Brady with the club said.

Thick algae blooms can reduce the sunlight the seagrass beds desperately need to grow.

"Manatees are highly dependent on seagrass," Brady said. "It's what they forage on, unfortunately with a lot of runoff (including) those harmful algal blooms, shaded out of a lot of sea grass in the Indian River Lagoon and caused a large mortality event."

There are fertilizer alternatives, without phosphorus and nitrogen.

"Those other nutrients are allowed, so potassium, calcium, iron, those are all important for plant nutrition," McIntyre said.

Creating a balance to better protect the environment and the creatures in it.

"The less we impact the water quality, and the environment, the better off manatees will be," Brady said.