Missouri a Culprit Behind Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone”

By Heather Claybrook
April 23, 2009; Public News Service, MO

St. Louis, MO – Missouri ranks third among the nine states that are contributing more than 75 percent of the nutrients to the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a recent report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Excessive nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, can cut off oxygen to fish. The biggest culprits in Missouri are animal manure on pasture and rangelands, along with fertilizer for corn production.

Kathleen Logan Smith with the
Missouri Coalition for the Environment says the watersheds along the Mississippi River are doing a lot of damage.

"It’s like taking the expressway to the Gulf of Mexico with no exit ramps. It zips pollution straight down to the Gulf.

Smith says the states and the U.S. Department of Agriculture need to place more attention on crop and animal management. In the meantime, she says everyone needs to cut back on excessive fertilizing of crops and lawns.

According to Smith, the problems start north of Missouri and continue to flow south. It’s a concern to all, she adds, since so many communities use major rivers like the Mississippi for their drinking-water supply.

"If the folks upstream are putting in more nitrogen and phosphorus pollutants, we’re going to have to pay more to get it out, because we can’t drink that stuff."

The USGS findings also reveal how animal manure contributes more phosphorus in the Mississippi River Basin than was originally thought.

More information is available by contacting Kathleen Logan Smith with the
Missouri Coalition for the Environment, 314-727-0600, and online at www.usgs.gov.
Heather Claybrook, Public News Service – MO