Date: February 25, 2016
Contact: Alicia Lloyd, Clean Water Policy Coordinator, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, alloyd [at] moenviron [dot] org, (314) 727-0600 x12
Elizabeth Hubertz, Attorney, Washington University Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic, ejhubertz [at] wustl [dot] edu, (314) 935-8760
MCE Sues EPA for Failure to Protect Missouri Lakes Under the Clean Water Act
St. Louis, MO: The Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) filed a lawsuit alleging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated its mandatory duty to issue effective nutrient standards under the Clean Water Act for lakes in Missouri. Nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, are among the biggest polluters of the nation’s waters, contributing to fish kills, algal blooms, and ultimately, the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. An algal bloom shut down the drinking water supply for the city of Toledo, Ohio in 2014. In Iowa, the Des Moines Water Works is suing polluters to prevent nutrients from entering the drinking water supply because of the expense to remove them.
“This is a straightforward case. Neither the state nor the federal government has developed acceptable water quality standards for nutrients in Missouri for lakes as required by the federal Clean Water Act,” said MCE Water Policy Coordinator, Alicia Lloyd. “This lawsuit is necessary to protect and improve Missouri’s valuable water resources,” Lloyd added.
MCE filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri against the EPA alleging it violated its mandatory duty to issue effective nitrogen and phosphorus standards for lakes in Missouri.
In 2009, as a first step toward setting standards on all waters, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources adopted nutrient standards for lakes. Two years later, U.S. EPA disapproved the standards because the state did not demonstrate that the standards were based on sound scientific rationale and that they would protect aquatic life and recreational uses.
Once the state’s nutrient standards were disapproved by EPA, Missouri had 90 days to propose revised standards. Since Missouri did not propose new standards within that period, which ended in late 2011, EPA is required by law to issue appropriate standards. To this day, neither Missouri nor U.S. EPA has adopted new nutrient standards for lakes and, therefore, all but a handful of the state’s lakes remain unprotected against nutrient pollution.
On November 6th 2015, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment sent a Notice of Intent to File Suit (NOI) to the U.S. EPA as required by the Clean Water Act. The NOI gave EPA 60 days to fix the problem before any legal action would be filed. Since EPA did not take action to protect Missouri’s water resources and public health, MCE has filed this lawsuit. MCE is also a plaintiff in another suit filed against EPA in 2012 by the Mississippi River Collaborative (MRC), a group of environmental organizations working on pollution solutions for the Mississippi River, of which MCE is a member. That suit was filed in response to EPA’s refusal to set numeric nutrient criteria in the Mississippi River basin after MRC petitioned it to do so in 2008.
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.
Example lake lacking numeric nutrient criteria: Creve Coeur Lake, Maryland Heights, MO Photo provided by an MCE member.