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Report: States are failing to reduce toxic pollution entering the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River Collaborative said in a report this week that the river basin continues to be polluted by nutrients from farming and wastewater treatment plants.
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An environmental group has slammed the EPA and Mississippi River states for their "dismal" efforts to reduce pollution in the river.

The Mississippi River Collaborative said in a report this week that the river basin continues to be polluted by nutrients from farming and wastewater treatment plants.

Pollution from nutrients like nitrogen can lead to algal blooms in the water, which can be toxic to humans, pets and wildlife, taint water supplies and increase water treatment costs, and deplete the water of oxygen needed by fish.

Although Minnesota and Wisconsin are doing more than the other 8 Mississippi River states at monitoring and limiting nutrients entering the water, the collaborative says isn't enough to stop the "increasingly serious threat to the nation's fresh and saltwater resources" caused by nitrogen and phosphorous pollution.

Rather than set and enforce rigid limits, the EPA has partnered with states since 2011 that puts the onus on each state to reduce nutrient pollution, but the Mississippi River Collective claims the states are not doing their jobs.

"The EPA can no longer rely on voluntary state efforts to make progress on nutrient pollution," the report says.

"The EPA should require states to identify programs and practices for controlling these sources to the maximum extent possible under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. States must step forward with adequate funding and adopt effective laws and rules to implement their plans."

MPR reports that the Mississippi Rivers Collaborative wants the EPA to put some new measures in place as a matter of urgency given the upcoming change of president, with the government department having an uncertain future under President-elect Donald Trump.

Minnesota's efforts to improve water quality

Improving water quality has been one of the recent tenets of Mark Dayton's tenure as Minnesota's Governor, after ongoing studies by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) highlighted how a huge number of Minnesota's lakes, streams and rivers had been rendered un-fishable and un-swimmable by nutrients and other pollution.

In August, at the Mississippi Headwaters in Itasca State Park, Gov. Dayton kicked off "A Year of Water Action" that urges businesses, agriculture, outdoor enthusiasts, communities and families "to take action to conserve and improve water quality."

Earlier in the year, a new law was passed that that requires landowners to install "buffer strips" of vegetation alongside streams, rivers and lakes, which filter nutrients out of groundwater before it reaches Minnesota's waterways.

The MPCA currently has a number projects aimed at reducing pollution specifically in the Mississippi, and is monitoring pollution levels on an ongoing basis. You can find more on that here.

The collaborative says Minnesota has set a strategy to reduce phosphorous and nitrogen entering the Mississippi River by 45 percent by 2040, but says that to date, "Minnesota's strategy lacks a plan to actually achieve these reductions."

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