Massive Gulf Dead Zone Shows Lack of Action by EPA, States

Today scientists from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium released their annual measurement of the Gulf Dead Zone, which measured 5,800 square miles, larger than the state ofConnecticut. LUMCON has been measuring the Dead Zone since 1985, and this year’s Dead Zone is above both the long-term average size and the average size over the last 5 years. Despite voluntary initiatives to address the Dead Zone enacted by Louisiana and EPA, the Gulf Dead Zone has only grown bigger. This lack of action forced members of the Mississippi River Collaborative to file suit against EPA in 2012. Specifically, this lawsuit was filed due to EPA’s refusal to set numeric standards for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution and ensure that all states in the river basin meet those standards. “EPA told states to develop numeric nitrogen and phosphorus limits fifteen years ago,” stated Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director for the Gulf Restoration Network. “EPA has spent the decade and a half since backing off hard deadline after hard deadline for reducing Dead Zone-causing pollution.” The Dead Zone doesn’t just threaten the fish and fisherfolk in its immediate footprint. A ripple effect is felt throughout the Gulf’s $2.8 billion dollar fishing industry, with competition and crowding increasing as fishing fleets focus their efforts on unaffected areas. Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution causes environmental problems throughout the entire Mississippi River Basin such as toxic algae blooms resulting in the death of livestock and pets, fish kills, and damages to drinking water supplies. Recently, there has also been a debate regarding how nitrogen and phosphorus pollution will impact proposed sediment diversions and wetland restoration projects in coastal Louisiana. “The best way to ensure that this pollution doesn’t impact diversions and coastal restoration is to make sure that it doesn’t get into the Mississippi in the first place,” stated Sarthou. “Reducing the pollution in the Mississippi River Basin would help set up sediment diversions for success.” “Since states have chosen to drag their feet on reducing Dead Zone-causing pollution in a significant way, it is EPA’s responsibility to set strong standards,” Sarthou added.The press release from LUMCON regarding the Dead Zone measurement can be found here. For more information on the Dead Zone, click here.Matt is GRN’s Science and Water Policy Director

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