Environmental Coalition Calls on EPA to Step Up Efforts to Reduce Nitrogen & Phosphorus Pollution in Mississippi RIver

posted on Thursday, November 17, 2016 in Council News

The Iowa Environmental Council with the Mississippi River Collaborative (MRC) are releasing a report during a teleconference at 9am on Thursday, November 17 imploring the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take specific actions to regulate excess nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in state waters along the Mississippi River because Iowa and the nine other border states haven’t achieved any significant pollution reductions on their own.

MRC, a partnership of 13 environmental and legal groups in the ten states that border the river, authored the report–entitled “Decades of Delay” to assess state-level progress to reduce the pollution that threatens drinking water supplies for millions of Americans and causes so-called dead zones that cannot support aquatic life. 

“For 20 years, we have been told the EPA and the states would address the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that causes the Gulf Dead Zone,” said Matt Rota, Senior Policy Director for the Gulf Restoration Network, an MRC member. “This report demonstrates that this simply has not happened. EPA should use the tools outlined in the report to finally act on their commitments.”

The report suggests actions EPA can take to protect human health and water quality in the Mississippi River. Recommendations include setting numeric limits of allowable nitrogen and phosphorus in state waters, assessing water quality for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that creates impaired waterways, and ensuring states develop nutrient reduction strategies with specific implementation plans and adequate funding.

“In addition to causing the Gulf Dead Zone, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in drinking water sources and recreational waters are a growing concern for public health and quality of life in Iowa and other states in the Mississippi River basin,” said Susan Heathcote, Water Program Director for the Iowa Environmental Council. “Despite decades of voluntary efforts in Iowa, nitrate pollution from farm runoff continues to threaten the safety of drinking water for 500,000 people in the Des Moines area.  Nitrogen and phosphorus pollutants are also fueling toxic blue-green algae blooms in Iowa's lakes and rivers, resulting in a record number of beach advisories over last two years, along with growing concern about the health impact of these toxins in drinking water supplies.”

To solve these pollution problems in the Mississippi River Basin and downstream in the Gulf of Mexico, the Iowa Environmental Council and the Mississippi River Collaborative call upon EPA to exercise its Clean Water Act oversight duties and treat the Mississippi and all its tributaries as the treasures that they are. 

Read the report.

Read the executive summary.