Groups Sue EPA Over Pollutants in Mississippi River

Thursday, 15 Mar 2012 12:04 PM

By Greg McDonald

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A dozen nonprofit groups are suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), claiming the federal government and the state of Iowa have not been active enough in trying to keep pollutants out of the Mississippi River, according to the Des Moines Register.
The lawsuit announced Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Iowa Environmental Council, and other groups, seeks to force the EPA to set tougher standards under the federal Clean Water Act and to make sure that states carry out their enforcement responsibilities. 

“This is a massive, multistate problem, but the EPA has not accepted its responsibility for leadership on this issue, and state responses — including in Iowa — have languished as a result,” Marian Riggs Gelb, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council, told the Register.

“In addition to the Gulf dead zone, excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus from farm runoff and sewage treatment plants wreak havoc here in Iowa as well, threatening drinking water, recreation in our lakes and rivers, and aquatic life here and downstream.”

The lawsuit filed in New Orleans focuses primarily on nitrogen and phosphorus, the key ingredients in fertilizers used on crops, yards, golf courses, and other outdoor recreational areas. Sewage treatment plants all along the Mississippi River also contribute to the problem.

The EPA acknowledged in a response to a 2008 petition seeking stronger clean water enforcement that the pollution runoff into the Mississippi is a serious problem.

But it said at the time that it relies on the state to enforce the law.
Iowa and other states along the Mississippi, however, have claimed in turn that they have been waiting for federal regulators to set tougher standards before taking stronger action.

The Register noted that the U.S. Geological Survey has determined that the pollution “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico is caused by the runoff from Iowa and eight other states.

The newspaper also reported that a second federal lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in New York asking the court to order the EPA to respond to a 2007 petition seeking tougher standards in the government’s sewage-pollution rules, which have not been changed since the mid-1980s.

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