ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WTSP) – A ban on the use of fertilizers containing phosphorous and nitrogen is in effect now through September 30 for Sarasota, Pinellas and Manatee counties, as well as the city of Tampa, in order to help prevent excess water pollution during the rainy season.

It’s during that time that the ground is not able to fully absorb the nutrients in the fertilizer before storms wash them away, and they eventually make their way into Tampa Bay and the Gulf.

According to Kelli Hammer-Levy, division director of environmental management in Pinellas County, high levels of phosphorous and nitrogen in the water can cause algae blooms, which can eventually kill fish and lead to other environmental problems.

“Without this whole ecosystem functioning at its optimal level, we lose our valuable fisheries, we lose all of the species that those fish are dependent on,” she said. “We lose our sea grass meadows, and we lose what is really so important about Pinellas County and Florida in general, [which] is our aquatic resources."

Hammer-Levy added that iron is a safer alternative to keeping landscapes fresh and green without risking additional pollution. There are also slow-release nitrogen fertilizers available; they can release nitrogen for up to four months, but they need to be purchased and used before the ban takes effect.

People caught using banned fertilizers between June 1 and September 30 could face fines of up to $10,000.

“For every less bag of fertilizer going onto a lawn, that's less nitrogen ending up out in the environment, and that's a benefit to everyone,” said Hammer-Levy.

For more information on fertilizer bans, visit the following links: Pinellas County, City of Tampa, Sarasota County, Manatee County.