Kentucky regulators say the state will develop a more comprehensive strategy for controlling nutrient water pollution, which commonly comes from sources like sewage treatment plants and agricultural runoff. Regulators from a dozen states and five federal agencies met in Louisville today to discuss the pollution, and how it contributes to hypoxia.
Hypoxia means there’s a lack of oxygen. In oceans, it’s caused by an abundance of nutrient pollution, and can result in the creation of ‘dead zones’ that can’t sustain life. The most notorious Dead Zone is in the Gulf of Mexico, and all of the states that drain into the Mississippi River—including Kentucky—contribute to the problem.
The hypoxia task force is designed as a way for all of those states to get together and discuss ways individual states are working to cut down nutrient pollution. It’s chaired by Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water Nancy Stoner.
“Our focus—of not only EPA but the other federal agencies—is really supporting the states in implementing statewide nutrient reduction strategies that they have developed to achieve the broader goal of cleaning up nutrient pollution throughout the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico,” Stoner said.
States are responsible for developing their own water quality standards, which are subject to EPA approval. At the meeting, Kentucky regulators announced that the commonwealth will begin work to develop a statewide nutrient reduction strategy.
“It’s something we need to do in order to implement our narrative water quality standard which basically prevents impairments from nitrogen [and] phosphorus, so that’s the intent,” Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bruce Scott said.
Even under the new strategy, Kentucky’s standards will still be based on descriptions of what a healthy waterway looks like, which environmental groups say is lacking. Other states, like Minnesota, have standards based on numeric criteria.