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Updated: 03/26/2014 08:00:09AM

New Fort Meade fertilizer law tough to enforce

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A new law prompted by provisions in the federal Clean Water Act will be difficult to enforce.

And provisions of the law that are able to be monitored will be expensive for Fort Meade, city officials said.

City commissioners approved the new ordinance last week which places a number of restrictions on how and where homeowners and land owners can fertilize their property.

These regulations will apply to all municipal, commercial, and residential landscapes within city limits.

Exemptions are made to golf courses, sports turf areas at parks and athletic fields, farm operations, agricultural lands, or lands used for scientific research.

This ordinance was drafted in compliance with new federal regulations concerning stormwater runoff applied nationwide to cities and counties.

As stormwater runoff holds the environmental risk of carrying pollutants into natural water bodies, these regulations help maintain water quality by adding protection from pollutants caused by “improper fertilization practices.”

Polk County was required to comply with these new federal regulations by Mar. 31 in order to renew its National Pollutant Discharge Eliminant System (NPDES) Permit, which it uses to operate its stormwater facilities.

Fort Meade was also required to adopt these regulations in accordance with its Interlocal Agreement with the county.

The ordinance passed its first reading with a unanimous vote during the Feb. 11 city commission meeting.

As the second and final reading during last week’s meeting included a public hearing, the floor was opened to any public discussion, which only consisted of one woman requesting a brief summary of the ordinance.

Though the motion to adopt the ordinance received a unanimous vote, commissioners expressed their reluctance to adopt it.

“It is handed down to us,” Mayor Bob Elliot explained.

“It is also going to be hard to enforce,” City Manager Fred Hilliard added. “It will be difficult.”

Hilliard had warned the commission during last month’s meeting that the ordinance would be hard to enforce, and that things were only going to get worse from here on out.

“Enforcement will be extremely difficult,” he wrote via email. “You cannot have an employee on every corner to oversee what a neighborhood is placing on their yard.”

In order to comply with these new regulations, the city will have to construct detention basins to collect rainwater and test for certain chemicals during rainfall events.

As no federal financial assistance will be provided to implement this new mandate, the construction of this new collection and retention system will be passed down to residents through higher stormwater fees, Hilliard explained.

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