EPA shouldnt rely on states to reduce nutrient pollution, new report states

By Kim McGuire
08.27.2009 4:38 pm, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A new report from EPA’s Office of Inspector General says the federal agency needs to get serious about reducing nutrients that wash off farm fields and lawns.

For too long, the federal agency has been relying on the states to adopt numeric water quality standards for nitrogen and phosphorus, the report states. Those two nutrients are too blame for the Gulf of Mexico’s “Dead Zone.”

Almost 10 years after EPA announced its strategy to reduce nutrients, few states have adopted plans to reduce that kind of pollution, according to the report. Both Missouri and Illinois are among the states cited in the report for being slow to develop tangible limits for phosphorus and nitrogen. And both have been shown to be major contributors to the Mississippi River’s nutrient load.

Here’s an excerpt from the report.

“EPA’s current approach is not working. EPA has relied on the States to develop standards on their own without any meaningful monitoring or control. EPA did not establish priorities, enforceable milestones, or adequate measures to assess

progress. States have made minimal progress in developing standards and have not yet considered the impact of their waters on downstream waters.”

The report recommends that EPA use its legal authority to identify water bodies of national importance – like the Mississippi River or Chesapeake Bay – and develop water quality standards ASAP.

For the most part, EPA officials didn’t refute the report’s findings. In fact, a top water quality official indicated the agency might be able to develop an approach to identifying nationally significant waterways by 2010.