Breaking news: Illinois releases plan to reduce nutrient pollution
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) and the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) are inviting residents to weigh-in on a new statewide effort designed to improve water quality in Illinois and the Gulf of Mexico. Public comments on the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy will be accepted until January 24, 2015.
The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy relies on the latest science and best-available technologies to guide statewide efforts to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen losses delivered to Illinois waterways and the Gulf of Mexico. These nutrients spur on algae blooms that deplete oxygen levels, hinder recreation, and threaten public health. Nutrient pollution can also degrade drinking water quality and require cities to install costly treatment equipment.
The strategy outlines a comprehensive suite of best management practices to reduce nutrient losses from both point sources, such as wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, and non-point sources, including runoff from farm fields and city streets. Identified practices target the most critical watersheds and build upon existing state and industry programs to achieve the ultimate goal of reducing the amount of total phosphorus and nitrate-nitrogen reaching Illinois waters by 45 percent.
At the heart of the plan is a scientific assessment of statewide nutrient loading from point and non-point sources and an evaluation of practices proven to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus losses from agricultural landscapes. Key components also include establishing committees to coordinate water quality monitoring, develop numeric nutrient criteria, and improve urban stormwater programs and education, creating a forum for improved agriculture stakeholder and agency collaboration, and defining a process for regular review and revision.
Illinois EPA and IDOA developed the strategy with representatives from state and federal agencies, agriculture, and non-profit organizations as well as scientists and wastewater treatment processionals. The one-year effort was facilitated by the Illinois Water Resources Center at the University of Illinois and marks the most comprehensive and integrated approach to date for addressing both point and non-point sources of nutrients in Illinois.
The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy was developed in response to the federal 2008 Gulf of Mexico Action Plan, which calls for 12 states in the Mississippi River Basin to develop strategies to reduce loading to the Gulf of Mexico, where excess nutrients have led to an aquatic life ‘dead zone’ that stretches for thousands of square miles.
Public comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to NLRS Comments, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Water, 1021 North Grand Ave. East, P.O. Box 19276, Springfield, IL 62794.
***Photo B courtesy of David Riecks.