Indian River Lagoon experts say fertilizer is dangerous, county commissioners disagree

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. - Neil Lagin, a Sebastian lawn care businessman, said he understands the appeal of an attractive environment.

"I have a bunch of customers who are snowbirds," said Lagin. "They live in this area and come to this area because of the Indian River Lagoon."

Lagin was one of 60,000 people who signed a petition to the Indian River County Commissioners requesting a fertilizer regulation.

"There is no ordinance," he said. "Sebastian doesn't have a license, I don't think the county has a license."

Peter O'Bryan, Indian River County Commissioner, said he's against an ordinance because off too much conflicting data.

He says he isn't sure whether or not nitrogen in fertilizer is truly damaging the estuary, and he's also concerned about unintended consequences of regulating fertilizers, such as introducing other chemicals when you limit nitrogen.

"If the science community could say definitively, 'This is the answer,' then that would help. But we'd still have the enforcement issue. Who's going to be the fertilizer cop?"

O'Bryan said he's also concerned about unintended consequences of regulating fertilizers, such as introducing other chemicals when you limit nitrogen.

Dr. Grant Gilmore has studied the lagoon for 41 years. He believes it's one of the most diverse fishing spots, and one of the most beautiful places to live.

"You see anglers from Tampa, you see anglers from Orlando, coming here to fish," said Dr. Gilmore. "We have some of the most valuable waterfront property in the state of Florida, starting at Jupiter Island, and work your way up."

The Indian River Lagoon has been estimated to bring $3.7 billion a year to the five counties it borders. More than $438 million of that goes to Indian River County.

But Dr. Gilmore said the lagoon could die if it's not properly cared for, and the economy could die with it. He said even if a fertilizer ordinance is not fully enforceable, it's still critical for the commission to send a message that they care about the lagoon.

an"If you don't have a strong fertilizer ordinance, particularly with this lagoon being so sensitive, we could have major problems in the future," said Gilmore.

 

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