CHICAGO, IL, Sept. 25, 2013 -- On Friday, Sept. 20, the U.S. District Court in Eastern Louisiana requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determine within six months whether to set new limits on the pollution that is fueling the dangerous algae growth choking the waters throughout the Mississippi River basin, the Gulf of Mexico and waters across the country.
Attorneys at the Natural Resources Defense Council led the suit -- filed on behalf of several conservation groups and based on longstanding efforts by the Mississippi River Collaborative -- to address the issue of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in major U.S. waterbodies and waterways. These chemicals fuel the formation of the Gulf Dead Zone and toxic algae blooms and cause damage to drinking water supplies.
Nitrogen and phosphorus from sewage plants, urban stormwater systems and agricultural operations fuels the growth of algae in waterways around the country. Algae, in turn, chokes out other aquatic life and can rob water of the oxygen that fish and shellfish need to survive. One of the most devastating consequences of this pollution has been the emergence of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico -- an area the size of Connecticut where algal growth has driven levels of oxygen at the sea floor so low that virtually nothing can live there. Similar issues are driving the dramatic collapse of Lake Erie and threatening other portions of the Great Lakes.
Plaintiffs in the suit included Gulf Restoration Network, Waterkeeper Alliance, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Iowa Environmental Council, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Prairie Rivers Network, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Sierra Club, and NRDC. Attorneys at the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, NRDC, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center brought the case.