Louisiana has listed 279 river segments or other bodies of water where work must be done to achieve compliance with the federal Clean Water Act, and the public has until March 30 to submit comments on the state’s proposal.
As part of a review that occurs every two years, the state Department of Environmental Quality sends in a list of water bodies that don’t meet one or several water quality criteria. These criteria include problems like low levels of dissolved oxygen, the level of mud in water, high nutrient content and more.
This year, DEQ sent to EPA a list outlining 279 water body segments and pollution problems each face. On Feb. 26, EPA notified the state it agreed with the list but added another 43 water body segments.
Three of those segments are coastal waters to the west of the Mississippi River in an area that develops a low-oxygen condition every summer known as the “dead zone.” DEQ and EPA have disagreed on whether to include these three sections since the first time the list was introduced by EPA in 2008.
DEQ maintains there is little Louisiana can do about the problem, caused by fertilizer from the Midwest flowing down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico.
Under the Clean Water Act provision to list impaired water bodies, once a water body is on the list, the state is required to put together a plan to get that water body back into compliance.
With the dead zone, the problem largely originates outside of Louisiana’s jurisdiction, so even if the state implemented rules, there’s no way to enforce them, said Albert Hindrichs, senior environmental scientist.
In addition to the three coastal areas, EPA maintains, there are 38 segments of water in the coastal area of the state that should be included as impaired because they don’t meet a criteria for minerals. Minerals can include substances such as sulfates, chlorides or dissolved solids.
Hindrichs said these 38 areas were placed in a category reserved for places where there isn’t enough information to determine if it meets the criteria. DEQ informed EPA that the department is re-evaluating the minerals criteria.
In addition, the 38 areas are all along the coast and influenced by tides, which means they can be impacted by drought or tropical storms, factors that don’t appear to have been taken into account in the criteria.
EPA responded that other areas along the coast were assessed using the criteria. So, EPA wrote, until the state completes a review of the criteria, the segments should be included.
The two remaining segments of water EPA is including in the list are in the Pearl River basin. Hindrichs said these two segments are listed as a scenic stream and has a harder standard to meet.
The entire list is available at www.epa.gov/region6/6xa/pdf/la_2014_303d_decision_document_022615.pdf
Comments can be sent to Evelyn Rosborough, environmental protection specialist, by mail at Water Quality Protection Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 6, 1445 Ross Ave., Dallas, TX 75202-2733; by fax at (214) 665-6490; or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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