News Feature | June 25, 2014

Government Makes Progress On 'Dead Zones' In Mississippi Basin

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


States charged with reducing pollution in the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico basin are on their way to implementing new plans.  

"Ten of the 12 states participating in a federal-state task force to tackle hypoxia in the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico have submitted either draft or final plans to reduce nutrient runoff into the basin," Bloomberg BNA reported, citing a task force official.

A federal-state task force was created in 1997 to address hypoxia in these water sources. Hypoxia is low oxygen as a result of algae blooms. The task force includes the EPA and other federal agencies. 

Bill Northey, Iowa secretary of agriculture and chairman of the Hypoxia Task Force, said the group is making significant progress. 

“This Hypoxia Task Force has been around more than 15 years now; it’s evolved a lot, and now the strategies are really state-driven,” he said, per the Delta Farm Press. “Each of our states are going through the process or have finished the process of developing state nutrient reduction plans.”

Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin have already submitted proposals. Arkansas and Tennessee are expected to send in proposals later this year, the report said, citing a state official. 

Still, various challenges remain, according to Northey. 

"How do we implement, how do we fund, how do we measure, can we even measure activity? Do we even have the dollars to measure activity?” he said in Bloomberg BNA. "[He said] the biggest challenge facing the states is in gathering data on how nitrogen is being used in agriculture and how it is being dissipated into the soil."

Hypoxic areas are also known as dead zones. According to documents published by the EPA, "Hypoxic waters have dissolved oxygen concentrations of less than 2-3 ppm. Hypoxia can be caused by a variety of factors, including excess nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, and waterbody stratification due to saline or temperature gradients." 

For more, check out Water Online's Nutrient Removal Solution Center.

Image credit: "Fading," Perry McKenna © 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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