Court orders EPA to assess fertilizer runoff pollution in U.S. waterways


GulfofMexico
Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video; Flickr

Environmental advocates in states along the Mississippi River have won a round toward a long-term goal of having federal standards created to regulate farmland runoff and other pollution blamed for the oxygen-depleted “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico and problems in other bodies of water.

In a ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey in New Orleans gave the Environmental Protection Agency six months to decide whether to set Clean Water Act standards for nitrogen and phosphorous in all U.S. waterways or explain why they’re not needed. The EPA describes the nutrients on its website as “one of America’s most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems,” affecting every state.

Plaintiffs in the suit included Gulf Restoration Network, Waterkeeper Alliance, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Iowa Environmental Council, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Prairie Rivers Network, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Sierra Club, and NRDC.  Attorneys at the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, NRDC, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center brought the case.

Susan Heathcote, water program director of the Iowa Environmental Council in Des Moines said, “Lake recreation is a big business in Iowa—generating $1.2 billion in annual spending and supporting 14,000 jobs. Yet Iowa’s lakes have among the highest nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the world, and consequences of this problem, including algae blooms and poor water clarity, have already landed 79 of the state’s top recreational lakes on Iowa’s impaired waters list. In addition, harmful algae blooms led to two dozen advisories against swimming at Iowa’s state park beaches this summer due to high toxin levels that threaten the health of people and pets.”

To learn more, head over to ABC News. 

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