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MO Farms Play Dual Role in Gulf Dead Zone

August 15, 2011

ST. LOUIS, Mo. - The "Dead Zone" in the Gulf of Mexico has expanded this summer to one of the largest on record, and Missouri is part of the problem. Missouri's efforts will now have to be a bigger part of the solution, too, since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided not to set federal regulations limiting certain pollutants that end up in the Dead Zone. The Dead Zone is a 6,765-square-mile area in the Gulf with insufficient oxygen to support marine life, harming the health of one of the world's largest fisheries.

Lorin Crandall, Clean Water program director with Missouri Coalition for the Environment, says here at home, restoring buffers and wetlands between farms and streams could absorb a significant amount of the fertilizers that otherwise pollute the Gulf.

"Putting some of those natural systems back in place and being strategic about it can give us very significant gains in nutrient reduction. It's never going to be what it was, but we need to stop the decline and start improving."

The Dead Zone is created by fertilizer runoff from farm fields in the Midwest, Crandall explains, and is worse this year due to massive flooding throughout Missouri. The Dead Zone peaks each year in the summer and recedes in the fall.

Crandall says minimizing the Dead Zone also protects the health of ecosystems in Missouri.

"A lot of problems throughout our state are caused by the same things that are causing the Dead Zone - caused by nutrients, caused by imbalances and excesses of pollution in our water systems."

Missouri traditionally ranks as one of the top states contributing pollutants to the Dead Zone.

More information is available at www.MoEnviron.org.

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO