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Date of Issue: September 06, 2007

Sandscript

Green news comes from down south, blue to the north

Our neighbors to the south are making some groundbreaking green laws that could well trickle our way soon.

Sarasota County commissioners have passed an ordinance that will greatly restrict the use of fertilizers.

The new rule, set to go into effect in six months, would ban any application of fertilizer that contains nitrogen or phosphorus from June 1 through Sept. 30, the rainy season. Rationale for the ban is that when it rains, the chemicals will sluice off into the bays and Gulf of Mexico.

Nitrogen, the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program has published, is the greatest threat to the environmental health of the bays in our area.

There are also some restrictions on the total amount of nitrogen or phosphorus that can be used in the county, with recommendations on the application of “slow-release” fertilizers.

There is also a pretty nifty, long-discussed ban of any fertilizer within 10 feet of a water body. Call it a no-fly zone for chemicals around our waters.

It was more than 15 years ago when a biologist at Mote Marine Laboratory mentioned the idea of setting up a plan to halt fertilizer application within a few feet of the bays. His argument was that whatever was planted along the shore would serve as a natural filter for whatever was “upstream” in the yard.

His pitch came after he watched one of his neighbors spreading some stuff on his bayfront yard through the use of a fertilizer spreader machine. The neighbor merrily went to the water’s edge, spewing the fert into the bay, oblivious to not only the financial loss he was suffering, but also missing the point that nitrogen in the bay is a bad thing.

Compound that one bozo by 10,000 or so and you see the point of the new law.

There has also been some discussion of late regarding nitrogen loading in local water exacerbating red tide blooms. Red tide, Karenia brevis, is a naturally occurring microscopic plant that for reasons as-yet unknown sometimes blooms. The burst of the plant can cause respiratory problems for humans and can kill fish, manatees and dolphins.

Red tide outbreaks have been on the rise both locally and globally. There have been some studies that indicate that nitrogen from fertilizer use and carried into the water via stormwater runoff contribute to the length and severity of the blooms.

The jury is still out on the matter, but it doesn’t take a marine scientist to reach the conclusion that if plants grow when they are fertilized, and if red tide is a plant, and that if there is an excess of fertilizer applied to the land with flows into the bays, then the red tide organisms will gobble it up and multiply.

Manatee County officials are apparently looking at the Sarasota County fertilizer ban and considering a similar action. So too is the city of Sarasota and Hillsborough County.

Island elected officials: next up?

 

Butt ban, too

Sarasota County is also inching forward on a ban of smoking cigarettes on public beaches. Proposed is an allowed section of Siesta and Nokomis beaches where smokers will be encouraged to light up, but discouraged elsewhere along the shore.

Cigarette filters have a half-life of something like a gazillion years and are a mess to clean from our pristine sands. Unfortunately, smokers seem to have no regard to the sand, stub out their cigs in the sand, then leave.

Go figure.

Better yet, go green and, if you can’t quit the nasty habit, at least bring some form of ashtray to take the butts home with you.

 

More green news, but of a white type

Another Florida county may soon set some nationwide records in an innovative recycling approach.

Broward County officials are debating the merits of pulverizing clear glass, then mixing it into beach sand to bolster the area’s eroding beaches.

As the Associated Press reported, “Sand is a commodity in South Florida, where beach-related business generates more than $1 billion for Broward alone.”

The problem is that the available sand is getting harder and harder to come by, and the process is becoming more and more costly. The AP said a 1991 dredge project brought in 1.3 million tons of sand, at a cost of $9 million. A 2005 dredge project brought in twice the sand at five times the cost.

Before you start to freak out about glass on the beach and your tender toes, remember that our fine, white sugar-sand beaches are comprised of quartz. Quartz is the basis of glass, which means that we’re basically walking on glass when we stroll along the shore. The key, of course, is the grain size.

Apparently the idea isn’t all that new. Offshore dumping sites containing glass bottles were started in Northern California and off Hawaii in the late 1940s. The sand became pulverized over time and eventually made its way to shore, smooth, small and useful to add to the beach.

Broward County did a pilot project on glass on the beach last year, measuring all sorts of parameters: heat, humidity and under-sand critter acceptance. The results were good. Permits are now pending on a larger project.

Another good element of this whole “white” green project is that the price of recycled glass is in a slump right now. Why not use the stuff to bolster a sagging economy through a bigger, bolder beach and its inherent tourism benefits?

 

And now, let’s go blue

Weeki Wachee Springs has been determined to be the deepest in the United States by divers.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, the Karst Underwater Research group was diving the springs, located north of St. Petersburg, earlier this summer. They found that the springs are at least 403 feet deep, with boulders and underwater caverns, or rooms, so huge you could get a jumbo-jet airplane in them without a problem.

As one of the divers described the springs in the Times, “All of these caves across the state of Florida are like people. Each one is unique with its own type of rock and formations. Weeki Wachee is one of the few that are so big and majestic. It’s on the Grand Canyon level.”

And, when you get to the 350-foot level, the crystal-clear water turns a brilliant blue hue, the divers report.

Weeki Wachee Springs divers had a narrow time window in which to dive. The springs pump out on-average 125 cubic feet of water per second, and currents were likened to “hanging onto a flagpole in hurricane winds” by the Times.

During the diving in May-July, when the state was in the midst of its drought, the spring flow was “only” 97 cubic feet per second.

What do you figure, about a minute to fill up a gallon jug of water from a kitchen sink?

The spring flow is too much for my meager math skills to calculate other than to determine, “Wow!”

 

Sandscript factoid

Weeki Wachee is the place where you can go and look at the mermaids. According to its official Web site it was established as a city in 1966.

“The City of Weeki Wachee is one of America's tiniest cities with a resident population of nine,” the Web site proudly proclaims. “The City of Weeki Wachee covers 1.01 square miles and includes Weeki Wachee Springs attraction, the Best Western, CVS drug store and the Weeki Wachee Village strip mall.”

Oh, and the “city of mermaids” boasts a former mermaid as its mayor, Robyn Anderson.

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