FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: December 8, 2016
St. Louis, MO: The Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) settled a lawsuit on December 7, 2016 with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding its mandatory duty to issue effective nitrogen and phosphorus standards for lakes in Missouri.
“The establishment of nutrient standards for lakes is an important step toward thorough protections of our irreplaceable water resources in Missouri,” said MCE Water Policy Coordinator, Alicia Lloyd.
Nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, are among the biggest polluters of the nation’s waters. This pollution contributes to fish kills and algal blooms, threatens drinking water sources, and is ultimately responsible for the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
“The settlement requires EPA to propose numeric nutrient water quality standards for Missouri lakes by December 15, 2017, if the state does not develop adequate standards before then. MCE hopes the settlement deadline gives Missouri time to work towards state-specific standards that support a healthy water supply for all Missourians,” said Liz Hubertz, counsel at Washington University Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic representing MCE.
EPA is required by law to issue appropriate standards when the state fails to do so. To this day, neither Missouri nor U.S. EPA have adopted nutrient standards for any class of water bodies and, therefore, all but a handful of the state’s lakes remain unprotected against nutrient pollution. Five years after EPA disapproved Missouri’s standards due to insufficient protections, the lawsuit, filed on February 26, 2016 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, sought to compel EPA to establish these standards for Missouri lakes.
The settlement comes just weeks following the release of a report entitled “Decades of Delay” on nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River basin produced by the Mississippi River Collaborative (MRC), a group of environmental organizations, of which MCE is a member. MRC criticizes basin states and the EPA for delaying efforts to address nutrients in the nation’s waters in light of the expanding Dead Zone and increased pollution. The report demonstrates how EPA inaction has negatively impacted water quality in lakes as well as rivers and streams and calls the Agency to step up protections in Missouri and throughout the Mississippi River basin.
“Missouri has been dragging its feet on developing nutrient criteria for lakes for over ten years,” said Lloyd. “The state’s efforts to establish nutrient standards for rivers and streams has also been stalled for years.”
The Consent Decree was signed just as EPA released its National Lakes Assessment detailing the extent of nutrient pollution in the nation’s lakes. As of 2012, 40% of all U.S. lakes had excessive levels of total phosphorus and 35% had excessive total nitrogen. According to data from the U.S. Geological Survey, Missouri is among the top contributors of both phosphorus and nitrogen to the Dead Zone.
MCE is a non-profit environmental advocacy organization based in St. Louis, Missouri. MCE is represented by the Washington University Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic. Visit www.moenvironment.org for more information.