The Fight to Keep Clean Waters Clean

This article is excerpted from Wave Maker’s News, our quarterly update on all things water in the Gulf of Mexico, check out the full newsletter here.Floating down the Bogue Chitto River, one of Louisiana’s Outstanding Natural Resource Waters. Photo Courtesy of Bart Everson.Over the past few years, we have been working hard in Louisiana and Mississippi to make sure that these states are keeping our clean waters clean by following the Clean Water Act. In Clean Water Act speak, this is called antidegradation. Despite being a requirement in the Act, Mississippi and Louisiana have yet to finalize adequate antidegradation rules.Basically, antidegradation has three “Tiers” that are required. Tier 1 means that you cannot dump pollution in a waterbody if it will cause the water to change so much that it cannot support wildlife and recreational activity. Tier 2 means that if a waterbody has wildlife and people use it for recreation, then no more pollution may be added unless there is a very good reason and no other good choice is available. Tier 3 is the most protective tier, where very special and clean waters are designated Outstanding Natural Resource Waters and no more pollution can be dumped in the water.In Louisiana, we have been pushing the Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) for the past five years to simply develop a Tier 2 policy! Without this policy, Louisiana continues to allow pollution to be dumped into waterbodies, like the Lower Tchefuncte River and parts of the Pearl River, without determining if there any good alternative solutions.In Mississippi, we are eagerly waiting for the State and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finalize new, relatively protective Antidegradation Rules. Our biggest complaint about these new rules is that the process to nominate special, clean waters to be Outstanding Natural Resource Waters is too cumbersome and expensive for regular citizens. However, we have been told that the State is creating a Guidance Document to make the process easier for citizens. In addition to fighting on the state level, GRN is also working with a coalition of groups up and down the Mississippi, called the Mississippi River Collaborative (, to push the EPA to make sure states are developing adequate antidegradation rules. To this end we recently worked with Collaborative organizations, such as the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Kentucky Waterways Alliance, to submit a petition to EPA urging them to make sure that states follow these federal antidegradation laws.GRN firmly believes that all waters draining into the Gulf deserve the full protection of the law, and will continue to work in the Gulf States to achieve this goal. Not only is it important that we clean up our polluted waters, but we also must keep our clean waters clean!Matt Rota is GRN’s Director of Science and Water Policy.

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