Action plan targets Mississippi pollution

An action plan for improving water quality and reducing nutrient pollution in one of the world's longest rivers has been published.

A special task force, chaired by the US Environmental Protection Agency, released the proposals for tackling chemicals flowing into the Mississippi River from sources such as agriculture, factory and wastewater treatment plants and soil erosion.

The revised Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan, which is an update on a previous action plan, increases the accountability and responsibilities of state and federal bodies.

Excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in the water cause hypoxia by triggering excessive algae growth that results in reduced sunlight and a decrease in oxygen in the water.

Hypoxia in the Mississippi affects waterways in 31 states and creates a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico that covers more than 20,000 square kilometres – the second largest hypoxic zone in the world.

“We are all committed to improving water quality and reducing nutrient pollution in America’s largest watershed,” said Benjamin H. Gumbles, the Environment Protection Agency’s assistant administrator for water.

“This science-driven plan is a roadmap for real progress through cooperative conservation, interstate collaboration and local innovation.”

Improvements on the current action plan include handing responsibility for leading nutrient reduction strategies to state authorities and requiring federal agencies to prepare complementary federal nutrient reduction strategies.

The task force also aims to enhance mechanisms for tracking and reporting water quality.

The changes follow new information from scientific studies and public comment.

Federal agencies and states along the Mississippi have been working together to reduce the size of the dead zone and are aiming to reduce it to less than 5,000 square kilometres by 2015.

The revised plan is now open for public comment until January 4.

Kate Martin

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie