Nicole Welle | June 25, 2020
The federal government is giving $840,000 to the 12 states that are part of a task force that works to reduce the size of the ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the allocation Monday, and the $840,000 is in addition to the $1.2 million the EPA gave the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force in August. The Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force was founded in 1997 and also works to reduce the size of the ‘dead zone.’ However, it has been unable to make much progress so far in accomplishing that goal.
The biggest contributor to the oxygen-starved area of water off the coast of Louisiana and Texas is nitrogen and phosphorous pollution from farm and urban runoff. Fertilizer and other pollutants in rivers feed algae, which then use up oxygen by dying and decomposing on the ocean floor. Hurricane Barry reduced the size of the hypoxic zone last year, but it was still the eight-largest on record, according to a KCRG article.
A 2018 study conducted by the University of Iowa showed that nitrogen pollution from Iowa in the Mississippi River has increased by 47 percent in the last 20 years. The federal government hopes that the states and agencies in the task force will be able to use the allocated funds to significantly reduce nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in the Mississippi river, but some Iowa environmentalists do not think that government funding alone is enough.
“We’ve been pouring state and federal money into cutting nutrient pollution for decades, and this highlights the fact that the voluntary approach is not working,” said Jennifer Terry, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council.
Terry believes that voluntary efforts need to be replaced with laws that will reduce Iowa’s contribution to Mississippi river nitrogen and phosphorous pollution.