Nutrient pollution: Voluntary steps are failing to shrink algae blooms and dead zones
Nutrient pollution: Voluntary steps are failing to shrink algae blooms and dead zones.
States around Lake Erie and in the Mississippi River basin, which drains to the Gulf of Mexico, have been trying to reduce nutrient pollution for years.
The Gulf of Mexico forecast predicts an 8,185-square-mile dead zone — more than four times the goal set by an intergovernmental task force.
But harmful algae blooms and hypoxia resurfaced in the mid-1990s, probably because flows into the lake of a form of phosphorus that is readily used by algae tripled.
Now however, 71 percent of nutrients entering Lake Erie are from non-point sources — mainly from agriculture.
The task force leading this effort recently extended the deadline for its goal of a 1,930-square-mile dead zone from 2015 to 2035.
The Chesapeake Bay’s pollution diet States around the Chesapeake Bay also struggled for decades to make voluntary, incentive-based approaches work.
No diet for Lake Erie Environmental groups recently sued EPA to force stronger action on nutrient pollution in Lake Erie’s western basin, with support from several members of Congress and the International Joint Commission, which coordinates efforts by the United States and Canada.
Michigan recently declared its portion of Lake Erie “impaired,” which is required to trigger a total maximum daily load.
Donald Scavia, Professor of Environment and Sustainability; Professor of Environmental Engineering, University of Michigan This article was originally published on The Conversation.