Staff from the Watershed Management Section of the Pinellas County Department of Environment and Infrastructure accepts the 2012 Environmental Excellence award at the annual meeting of the Tampa Bay Area Environmental Professionals. Pictured are, from left, Tim Terwilliger, president of the Tampa Bay Area Environmental Professionals; Anamarie Rivera, Lynn Smith, Ryan Ryczek and Kelli Levy of the Watershed Management Section and Will Davis, interim director of DEI’s Transportation and Stormwater Division.
CLEARWATER - Tampa Bay Area Environmental Professionals awarded Pinellas County's Watershed Management Section with the 2012 Environmental Excellence award on Nov. 29 during the TBAEP's annual meeting held at the Rusty Pelican in Tampa.
Each year, the TBAEP, a local chapter of the Florida Association of Environmental Professionals, gives an award for excellence in environmental science in the Tampa Bay area. This year’s award was based on the successful implementation of Pinellas County's Fertilizer and Landscape Management program.
The fertilizer ordinance addresses nitrogen loading to Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico from overuse and improper application of residential landscape fertilizers. While some 40 Florida communities currently regulate the use of lawn and landscape fertilizers during the summer, only Pinellas County and the city of Tampa have ordinances that regulate the retail sale of nitrogen fertilizers. Tampa’s ordinance was modeled after the 2010 Pinellas law, which bans the sale of nitrogen fertilizers from June to September and requires the sale of slow-release fertilizers the rest of the year.
The Watershed Management Section is responsible for implementation of the ordinance including the training and certification of professional applicators and landscapers, inspection of 90 retail outlets and enforcement of violations. Implementation of the ordinance is expected to reduce nitrogen in Pinellas waterways by 22 tons per year. Keeping 22 tons of nitrogen from the bay is like taking two sewage plants offline.
“The single best reward has been the buy-in from a number of local industry professionals. Many of these individuals have become our strongest allies. These individuals are in the field every day and can have either a positive or negative impact and they chose to be the ultimate stewards of our environment,” said Watershed Management Section Manager Kelli Levy, who led a team of six members responsible for implementing the ordinance and was on hand during the award presentation.
Ecological benefit of reducing fertilizer inputs to the area waterways has led to cleaner waters for all those who live, work and play in Pinellas County. Cleaner water also benefits tourism in Pinellas County, which hosts more than 5 million overnight visitors each year, most drawn by the county’s beautiful beaches and water-based recreational activities.