Water quality issues prompt discussion on Marco Island fertilizer ordinance

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
Members of two advisory panels, worried about the quality of water in city waterways, are proposing a second look at a fertilizer ordinance that stalled out four years ago.

Impaired water quality in Marco Island may prompt the City Council to take a harder look at changes to its fertilizer ordinance.

A white paper authored by Councilor Victor Rios proposed numerous changes including allocating more resources towards testing and imposing a six-month ban moratorium on the use of fertilizer.

The City Council, however, is looking at holding a workshop to dive into the water quality issues once it has received a formal presentation on the condition of its waterways next month.

“We have to get a presentation by the city manager and appropriate staff member on every one of these bullet points you raise,” Vice-Chair Charlette Roman said. “Particularly, I think that our environmental specialist and planner should be involved with presenting some of the materials so that we understand what’s going on now. This Council show have a firm understanding of ground truth in each of these areas before we make recommendations on how we want to proceed or change.”

The suggestions proposed in the paper Rios authored included:

  • Increase water quality testing to once a month
  • Enforce our fertilizer ordinance
  • Impose a 6-month moratorium on the use of fertilizer
  • Make sure that all landscapers are licensed, trained and licensed to apply fertilizer.
  • Enforce stormwater control ordinance
  • Encourage homeowners along waterways to install Ocean habitat mini-reefs.
  • Allocating funds for beach cleanups after dead fish have washed shore numerous times.

More:Editorial: Red tide drifts back, keep focus on fertilizer

More:City of Naples weakened a seasonal ban on fertilizer as red tide bloom was forming

More:Following fertilizer leads to farms, golf courses, landscaping amid algae blooms

Last month, Turrell, Hall and Associates presented data to the city’s Waterways Advisory Committee that showed impaired water quality as nitrogen levels remained in high concentrations and above the state requirements. A presentation to the City Council is on water quality is currently scheduled for Oct. 15.

Council Chairperson Jared Grifoni also acknowledged that the city should consider a suggestion from County Commissioners Penny Taylor and Burt Saunders, who two weeks ago called for a summit between city and county officials and the appropriate stakeholders to talk about fertilizer regulations.
“It might be a good idea to see where we all fit into this puzzle because it’s a big puzzle,” Grifoni said. “Unless every piece is fitting together in the right way, then you’re probably going to have a difficult time achieving the desired result.”

One of the issues now facing the Council is that is just approved next year’s budget and if it does want to make changes, it would require taking money from another area, Roman said.
Sam Young, a member of the Waterways Committee and current City Council candidate, agreed with Rios’s suggestions and offered to make a motion for the committee to forego other asks in favor of allocating resources towards increased testing.

Young mentioned that the committee had asked before increased testing, including adding Landmark Bay to the areas that are tested but was rebuffed.

“As far as water testing goes, we should be doing it already,” Young said. “We brought it up last year as the Waterways Committee and it was turned down. We could have been ahead of the curve.”

Young also said the city has reduced its level of testing, which once upon a time was being done monthly, and the ability to manage problems lies in having a dataset to understand the issues.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” Young said. “This city went from monthly to bi-monthly to quarterly and now, we’re still at quarterly and the water is getting worse and worse.”

The City Council has tentatively scheduled the workshop to discuss suggestions in Rios’s paper for Oct. 18.