The Norman Transcript

November 21, 2012

Protecting Norman’s water source

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — City to consider fertilizer ordinance

The Norman City Council previewed two draft ordinances as it considers limiting the use of phosphorus fertilizer applications as part of an effort to protect the Lake Thunderbird watershed.

The city’s stormwater master plan makes several suggestions for reducing pollutants in the watershed which runs into Thunderbird, Norman’s primary source of drinking water. Statutory fertilizer reduction, wetlands to serve as a natural filtering agent and structural controls are part of the proposed solution portfolio.

When writing Norman’s draft ordiannce, city staff looked at sample ordinances in other cities, in particular the Ann Arbor, Mich. ordinance which has been documented as successfully assisting in the reduction of phosphorus in the water source there.

The ordinance under consideration is not a ban, but a “fertilizer control ordinance” according to city attorney Scott Sturtz who made the presentation.

Key issues in the ordinance include phosphorus fertilizer application restrictions, public education on the use of fertilizers, point of sale provisions, penalties for violations and the registration of commercial applicators.

“You should be aggressive if you can,” said University of Oklahoma professor Baxter Vieux who serves on the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District.

The COMCD is the governing board charged with protecting and overseeing Lake Thunderbird.

Many of the restrictions in the proposed ordinance are common sense such as the restriction prohibiting applying phosphorus fertilizer when it is raining, when rain is predicted or when soils are saturated and the fertilizer is likely to runoff. Excess fertilizer in paved areas that would find its way into the stormwater system must be removed.

The city will create an educational pamphlet and engage in other educational efforts to promote understanding about the problems associated with phosphorus fertilizer and its threat to the city’s water supply.

Retailers will be required to clearly mark phosphorus containing fertilizers and post that information.

Sturtz said the local soil contains a lot of phosphorus already and most of the time the soil does not need additional phosphorus from fertilizer. Members of city council discussed educating the public on the value of soil tests before fertilizer is applied.

Council member Roger Gallagher talked about the importance of street sweeping and spoke in favor of eliminating some of the proposed exemptions in the fertilizer ordinance.

“I would like to see some of these exemptions lifted because every bit helps,” Gallagher said.

Joy Hampton366-3539jhampton@normantranscript.com

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