The Orchard Lake City Council will be considering a first reading of an amended fertilizer ordinance on Nov. 19, a proposed change intended to align city fertilizer rules with a new state law.
Although Orchard Lake’s existing fertilizer ordinance was grandfathered into compliance under the new state law and allowed to remain in place, some concerned residents felt the ordinance — which was first adopted in 1991 — is in need of revisions.
According to Dr. Leon Peddel, who helped to draft the proposed amendment, along with City Services Director Gerry McCallum and the city attorney, the primary goal is to limit pollutants in lakes.
“First and foremost, lawn care is a constant source of pollutants to the water supply,” Peddel said. “These include the nitrogen and phosphorous in fertilizers, which get into our lakes and foster the excessive growth of weeds, including invasive, non-native species that can ruin the lakes for all forms of recreation.”
In an effort to maintain healthy lakes, phosphorous-based fertilizers would be banned from use in the city except in certain situations. With those exceptions, only slow-release nitrogen fertilizers would be permitted.
“The major thrust of the proposed ordinance is to ban phosphorous from lawn fertilizers and secondly, for environmentally-conscious communities like Orchard Lake, to allow only slow-release nitrogen,” Peddel said. “West Bloomfield was the real pioneer in drafting an ordinance years ago when it had an environmental director.”
There would be additional penalties for failure to comply. These penalties would apply to both commercial applicators and homeowners, adding to the existing penalties applicable to commercial applicators, which can include revocation of a license to work in Orchard Lake.
In line with the new state law, the ordinance calls for fertilizer spilled on an impervious surface — such as a street, sidewalk, or parking lot — to be promptly cleaned up; prohibiting the application of fertilizer to turf when the soil is frozen or saturated with water; and allows local phosphorus fertilizer ordinances to be maintained and enforced if in effect.
Peddel added that the easy way to stay within the guidelines is to never allow lawn fertilizer in a liquid form to be sprayed onto a lawn, and make sure the second number on the fertilizer’s three-number rating is always zero (the first number is nitrogen content, the second is phosphorus, and the third number is potassium content).
He added that for lakefront homes, fertilizer is never to be applied within 35 feet of the water.
If passed on Nov. 19, a second reading of the ordinance and possible final adoption will be considered in December.
“We’re very excited because we needed an up-to-date change for Orchard Lake, especially because Orchard Lake cares for the health of all its lakes,” Peddel said.