Dead Zone Grows, GRN Petitions EPA to Act

July 30, 2008Matt Rota(504) 525-1528 x206As Gulf Dead Zone Grows, Groups Petition EPA for Immediate ActionNew Orleans, LA” Responding to another massive Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico,conservation groups from nine states bordering the Mississippi River, includingLouisiana, petitioned the federal government today to set and enforce standards tolimit nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi Riverbasin, and to develop cleanup plans for those water bodies.The petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency follows Monday’sannouncement of the Gulf of Mexico’s second largest Dead Zone to date, measuring8,000 square miles. Researchers who mapped the Dead Zone said it would havebeen substantially larger if Hurricane Dolly had not passed through, churning up thewaters and thus restoring some oxygen to the Zone’s edges. The Gulf Dead Zone, anarea of water where oxygen levels are too low for marine life to live, is caused everyyear by nitrogen and phosphorus pollution flowing into the Gulf from the Mississippiand Atchafalaya Rivers.The groups say the EPA has neglected its responsibility under the federal CleanWater Act to limit pollution in the Mississippi River and Gulf. The Dead Zone willcontinue to grow, they argue, unless the EPA sets numeric standards for nitrogenand phosphorus pollution and requires all states in the river basin meet thosestandards. The EPA is required by law to respond to the petition within a reasonabletime frame. The Gulf Restoration Network is also submitting over 1,300 postcardssigned by citizens throughout the Mississippi River Basin, asking the EPA to takeimmediate action to limit the Dead Zone.”This year’s Dead Zone is the second largest that we have seen,” said Matt Rota,Water Resources Program Director for the Gulf Restoration Network. “The DeadZone is a national catastrophe that has been overlooked for decades and it is time forthe EPA to step up and bring the Gulf of Mexico back from the brink of potentialecological disaster.” Not only does the Dead Zone threaten the $2.8 billion Gulf fishing industry, nitrogenand phosphorus pollution cause environmental problems throughout the entireMississippi River Basin such as toxic algae blooms resulting in the death of livestockand pets, fish kills, and damages to drinking water supplies. The groups say thatbecause of the basin-wide implications of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, it is theEPA’s responsibility to take a leadership role in preventing further pollution.The National Academy of Sciences, in a report published earlier this year, agreedthat the EPA had shown little leadership and called the Mississippi River an “orphan.” The report concluded that, “the EPA has failed to use its mandatory and discretionaryauthorities under the Clean Water Act to provide adequate interstate coordinationand oversight of state water quality activities along the Mississippi River.” “There has been a dead zone at the EPA almost as big as the Dead Zone in the Gulfof Mexico,” said Matt Rota of the Gulf Restoration Network. “The EPA has theresponsibility to protect the Gulf from pollution and we ask the agency to act beforeit’s too late.” The EPA called on states in 1998 to adopt specific limits on nitrogen and phosphoruspollution, threatening to enact its own limits if states had not complied by 2003. Everystate along the Mississippi has thumbed its nose at that and other deadlines set byEPA, but so far, the federal government has not stepped in to supply the urgentlyneeded protections. As a result, inland water pollution problems have multiplied andthe Dead Zone has continued to grow.The academy of sciences report confirmed the importance of numeric standards fornitrogen and phosphorus, stating that without them, “there is little prospect ofsignificantly reducing or eliminating [the Dead Zone] in the northern Gulf of Mexico.” The full petition and list of petitioners can be found here: [rokdownload menuitem=”83″ downloaditem=”256″ direct_download=”true”]Dead Zone Petition[/rokdownload]# # #

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