Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that this year’s Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico measured at 8,776 square miles, an area about the size of New Jersey. The measured size is close to the 8,185 square miles forecast by NOAA in June, and is the largest measured Dead Zone since mapping began in 1985.
Dead zones are areas in a body of water where low levels of oxygen concentration causes marine life to either flee or die of suffocation. The annual dead zone in the gulf is caused by nutrient pollution, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, in the water. Excess nutrients promote algal blooms, which are not consumed by marine life and, therefore, die, sink, and decompose. This process of decomposition utilizes oxygen, depleting the water’s supply and leading to areas which can no longer support marine life. In recent years levels of nutrient pollution in the gulf, and the corresponding dead zones, have been growing.
Industrialized agriculture, inadequate sewage treatment, and stormwater runoff are some of the leading causes of nutrient pollution. A new report by Mighty Earth identifies companies contributing to manure and fertilizer pollution that contaminates our waterways, including the Mississippi River, which drains into the Gulf.
KWA is working with our partners at the Mississippi River Collaborative and the National Wildlife Federation, both at the state and federal levels, to combat nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River as well as its tributaries, including setting numeric standards for nutrient pollution.