A report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) says US states and the US EPA have failed to address the largest source of water pollution: non-point source run-off from industry, agribusiness, city streets and rain contaminated with air-borne heavy metals.

Last week, a federal court judge acknowledged that non-point source pollution was the biggest problem facing US waterways. The judge also supported the EPA’s authority to require clean-up plans for rivers polluted by non-point sources of pollution (see related story).

TMDLs are an essential part of states’ watershed restoration plans. They function as caps on pollution, preventing waterways from receiving more pollution than they can support. States must apply the TMDLs and allocate the allowable loads among the sources of the pollution.

The report, Pollution Paralysis II – a follow-up to a similar report in 1997 – claims that most states are not using TMDLs aggressively enough and that the EPA is not policing their implementation with enough vigour.

Restoration plans are often blocked, the report says, because industry and agribusiness exert considerable influence over state and federal government.

These sectors have launched a campaign to convince Congress to prevent EPA from implementing new rules that would require states to use TMDLs more effectively. The proposed rules would address run-off from industrial animal feeding farms, logging operations, urban areas and from air-borne pollutants from power stations. The rules would also require states to implement TMDL restoration plans.

But, the report says, the proposed rules do not go far enough. National minimum standards are needed that apply in every state and that can be enforced by the EPA. More funding is needed for state TMDL programmes; waterways that pose a risk to human health should be made a priority for restoration; more funds should be made available for the Coastal Run-off programme and the EPA should prevent additional discharges of pollution into impaired waters.

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