New Orleans, LA—Today’s Dead Zone announcement from Louisiana researchers revealed that EPA has failed to meet a major goal it set in 2001 to reduce Mississippi River water pollution that is destroying aquatic life in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Louisiana University Marine Consortium and Louisiana State University issued a statement earlier today in which it declared that this year’s Dead Zone – the area at the mouth of the Mississippi River which receives a significant quantity of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from upstream as far north as Minnesota – measures approximately 6,474 square miles, an area the size of Connecticut plus Rhode Island.
“In 2001, state and federal bureaucrats set a goal of reducing the size of the Dead Zone to 1,950 square miles by 2015,” said Matt Rota, Senior Policy Director for the Gulf Restoration Network. “Well here we are at 2015, and we are over three times that goal.”
In preparation for not meeting their goal, EPA announced in February that it would simply move the goal posts, pushing the deadline to 2035. This announcement did not include any specific new strategies for reaching the target.
Members of the Mississippi River Collaborative have been warning EPA for nearly a decade that its strategy to rely upon states to develop and enforce pollution protections is not working. In 2012, the groups filed a lawsuit against EPA for its refusal to set and enforce numeric standards for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution as part of its obligation under the Clean Water Act. EPA continues to fight the litigation.
In addition to fueling the Dead Zone, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution causes environmental problems which have resulted in the death of livestock and pets, fish kills, and damage to drinking water supplies. In August 2014 residents of the City of Toledo were advised not to drink or even bathe in their tap water as a result of an algae bloom caused by phosphorus pollution. In Des Moines, recent record-high levels of nitrates forced the Water Works to activate its costly nitrate removal systems to avoid risks to humans that are linked to nitrates, such as miscarriages, some cancers, and blue baby syndrome.
“The states and EPA need to stop dragging their feet and institute solid goals and timelines to address the Dead Zone and the impacts nitrogen and phosphorus pollution cause throughout the Mississippi River Basin and Gulf of Mexico,” said Rota.
Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) is a network of environmental, social justice, and citizens' groups and individuals committed to restoring the Gulf of Mexico to an ecologically and biologically sustainable condition. www.healthygulf.org
The Mississippi River Collaborative is a partnership of environmental organizations and legal centers from states bordering the Mississippi River as well as regional and national groups working on issues affecting the Mississippi River and its tributaries. www.msrivercollab.org
The press release from LUMCON regarding the Dead Zone measurement can be found here.