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Water concerns dominate Norman City Council meeting

Norman City Council members Tuesday approved an ordinance restricting the use of phosphorus-based fertilizers believed to be harming Lake Thunderbird and discussed ways to deal with an ongoing drought that is affecting the lake's level.
by Jane Glenn Cannon Modified: February 27, 2013 at 9:30 pm •  Published: February 28, 2013

— Water, both its availability and its quality, are increasing concerns for the city council.

Despite opposition from two council members, the council Tuesday passed an ordinance that regulates the use of phosphorus-based fertilizers, believed to be a significant cause of too much algae growth at Lake Thunderbird.

Phosphorus gets washed into the lake from parts of Norman, Moore and Oklahoma City, causing the proliferation of algae. Algae produces chlorophyll-a, which can introduce toxins into the water. City officials say Lake Thunderbird has more than three times the amount of chlorophyll-a allowed by the federal Clean Water Act.

Councilman Dave Spaulding said he opposed the ordinance regulating phosphorus-based fertilizers “because it is vague, unenforceable … and another example of government intrusion.”

Spaulding and Councilman Chad Williams voted against the ordinance, which restricts the application of phosphorus-based fertilizers to the first six months of turf establishment from seed or sod or unless soil samples taken from a lawn or specific area indicate the soil is deficient in phosphorus.

Under the ordinance, commercial applicators are required to register with the city, with a registration fee waiver available to those who certify they do not use phosphorus-based fertilizers.

City officials also will produce an informational pamphlet about the negative effects of using phosphorus-based fertilizers. Anyone selling phosphorus-based fertilizers will be required to make the pamphlets available to purchasers.

Violations of the ordinance, which will take effect in 30 days, will result in fines of not less than $50 or more than $750.

Education not enough

Williams said he believes in educating the public about the negative effects of using phosphorus-based fertilizers but opposes mandatory restrictions.

Councilman Jim Griffith said he “wholeheartedly” disagrees with the voluntary approach.

“The lake already has three times the acceptable level of chlorophyll-a,” Griffith said. “We can't wait much longer to do something about it. We need to do this now.”

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by Jane Glenn Cannon
Senior Reporter
A native of Oklahoma, Jane Glenn Cannon is an award-winning reporter who has covered everything from crime, courts and government to entertainment and features. She wrote a popular personal column for many years. She is a former associate writer...
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