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Holding the EPA’s Feet to the Fire on Mississippi River Pollution

August 1, 2008

Des Moines, IA – Everything that flows into the Mississippi River eventually ends up in the Gulf of Mexico, including pollution. This summer, pollutants have created a "dead zone" at the river's mouth 8,000-square-miles in size. It's the second-largest ever measured.

Susan Heathcote, water program director for the Iowa Environmental Council, says conservation groups are asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to live up to its responsibilities.

"With the dead zone being so large, this is an urgent problem that needs immediate attention."

The problem has been caused by over-abundant nutrients, which have sucked the oxygen out of the water so nothing else can survive. Heathcote's group and others are urging the EPA to put limits on the culprits: nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the Mississippi River.

Of all the states in the river basin, she says, Iowa is the second-largest contributor of nitrogen–-and that's not all.

"Iowa also is the third-highest contributor of phosphorus leading to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico."

Heathcote says nitrogen and phosphorus restrictions also would help many other Iowa rivers and lakes suffering from the same high pollution levels as the Gulf.

Dick Layman/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - IA