msr4In 2010, there was a “Dead Zone” the size of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico. In this “dead zone,” fish, shrimp, crabs, and all types of life that would normally thrive in this large area are killed or pushed out. And you might be surprised to learn that the cause of this dead zone wasn’t caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The dead zone is caused by out-of-control algae, the result of pollution by nitrogen and phosphorus.

And according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the state of Kentucky is one of the largest contributors to the pollution that causes this dead zone! We rank 5th for phosphorus and 6th for nitrogen pollution annually.

How does nitrogen and phosphorous pollution from Kentucky kill fish and crabs in the Gulf of Mexico? It’s simple: Farmers and homeowners apply more manure or chemical fertilizers than their fields, crops, or yards can absorb. Sewage plants use old, outdated equipment that doesn’t remove all the nitrogen and phosphorous. The polluted runoff and partially treated wastewater carry nitrogen and phosphorous into local rivers, the Mississippi River, and out into the Gulf of Mexico.

On March 14, 2012, KWA renewed and refocused our efforts to press the state of Kentucky and the EPA to set specific limits on nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that ends up in our rivers and streams. We joined our Mississippi River Collaborative partners and challenged the EPA to update standards for numeric nutrient limits for nitrogen and phosphorus from discharges at waste water treatment plants, one of the largest sources of nutrient pollution.

We also joined our Mississippi River Collaborative partners in an effort to help clean up the Gulf of Mexico – and our rivers and streams right here at home.  We’ve challenged the EPA to set numeric nutrient standards for nitrogen and phosphorus for the Mississippi River mainstem states.  Nutrient pollution is the third leading cause of impairment to the Kentucky’s streams, with impairment totaling over 1,629 miles of Kentucky’s waterways, according to the 2010 Integrated Report to Congress on Water Quality in Kentucky.

Due to these nutrient pollution problems, we track #402 KPDES permit applications to make sure they have sufficient discharge limits for phosphorus and nitrogen.  We’re also working to get Kentucky Division of Water to move towards amending the state water quality standards to actually include number limits for phosphorus and nitrogen.  Without those number limits, all the state has to regulate nutrients is a “narrative”, which is very difficult to actually enforce.

Finally, we’re keeping tabs on the #Ohio River Basin Water Quality Trading Project, a credit-based trading program that is set to start pilot trades this year.  This program will involve farmers implementing various best management practices to reduce nutrient pollution and generate credits, which are then sold to various industrial sources of nutrient pollution.  It’s a complex project, which means we have to stay on it every step of the way, to make sure it functions as intended, and actually helps reduce nutrient pollution.

We need your help and support to continue the battle to reduce Kentucky’s own nutrient issues and our contribution to the pollution in the Gulf of Mexico. Sign up now to stay informed about opportunities to make your voice heard.

Map of states N&P Criteria Progress