Thursday, May 31, 2012
EPA Agrees in Lawsuit Filing That Mississippi River Nutrient Pollution Leads to Gulf Dead Zone
On May 21, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a response in the U.S. District Court - Eastern District of Louisiana, formally answering allegations made in an amended March 13 complaint by a coalition of environmental organizations against the EPA related to nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in the Mississippi River Basin, and the associated Gulf of Mexico “dead zone.” The legal filing, although largely a formality within U.S. District Court civil lawsuit proceedings, did contain one noteworthy admission by EPA. Specifically, the agency agreed in the court filing with the environmental groups' claim in the March 13 complaint "that nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River Basin and northern Gulf of Mexico causes or contributes to a low-oxygen “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico; that such pollution degrades and impairs water quality; and that such pollution harms aquatic life, human health, and the economic, aesthetic, and recreational values of rivers, lakes, streams, estuaries, and coastal waters."
BackgroundOn March 13, a coalition of environmental organizations filed two separate legal actions against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The lawsuits addressed nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorous) pollution in the Mississippi River Basin, and the associated, low-oxygen hypoxic zone or “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. One of the two separate lawsuits, filed with the U.S. District Court - Eastern District of Louisiana (lawsuit copy here) challenged EPA’s denial of a 2008 petition asking EPA to establish numeric water quality limits (or standards) for and stream restoration plans relating to nitrogen and phosphorous pollution. A second lawsuit, filed with the U.S. District Court - Southern District of New York (copy here) sought to compel EPA to respond to a 2007 request (or "petition") that the agency update its wastewater treatment plant water quality standards to include provisions for the removal of nitrogen and phosphorous. Copies of both lawsuit filings and associated appendices can be found on this Natural Resources Defense Council web page.