Tag Archive for 'Gulf of Mexico'

Connecticut-sized dead zone found in Gulf of Mexico

Photo retrieved from: www.treehugger.com

“The dead zone is caused primarily by agricultural runoffs that “stimulate an overgrowth of algae that sinks, decomposes and consumes most of the oxygen needed to support life.” Not much life without oxygen, hence dead zone.

“A near-record area was expected because of wet spring conditions in the Mississippi watershed and the resultant high river flows which deliver large amounts of nutrients,” said Nancy Rabalais, Ph.D. executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), who led the July 21-28 survey cruise. “But nature’s wind-mixing events and winds forcing the mass of low oxygen water towards the east resulted in a slightly above average bottom footprint.”

Last year, the severe drought shrunk the dead zone to 2,889 square miles, an area slightly larger than Delaware (the 4th smallest dead zone on record). The largest dead zone took place in 2002, at 8,481 square miles.”

Read more: Treehugger

 

Dead Zone Pollution Is Growing Despite Decades of Work, So Who’s the Culprit?

 

Photo retrieved from: www.alternet.org

“Washing off farms and yards, nitrate is largely responsible for the Gulf of Mexico’s infamous “dead zone.” Nitrate and other nutrients from the vast Mississippi River basin funnel into the Gulf, sucking oxygen out of the water and killing almost everything in their path.

The pollution is one of America’s most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Sewage treatment plants along the rivers already have spent billions of dollars, and some farmers now use computers to apply fertilizer with pinpoint precision.

But after three decades of extensive efforts to clean it up, nitrate along the rivers is getting worse. In Hermann, the levels have increased 75 percent since 1980, according to U.S. Geological Survey research published last year.”

Read more: AlterNet

 

EPA Sued Over Pollution Petition

Photo retrieved from: www.treehugger.com

“Several environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency alleging the agency failed to approve a petition to lower pollution into the Mississippi River Basin and the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The groups claim that excessive nitrogen and phosphorous pollution into these waters have resulted in the largest North American “dead zone.”

Gulf Restoration Network, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Iowa Environmental Council, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance Inc., Prairie Rivers Network, Kentucky Waterways Alliance Environmental Law & Policy Center, and the Natural Resources Defense Council Inc. filed the lawsuit on March 13 in federal court in New Orleans.

The lawsuit concerns the EPA’s July 29, 2011, denial of a 2008 petition submitted pursuant to the Clean Water Act. The petition asked for revised or new state water quality standards and total maximum loads to address excessive nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in the waters of the Mississippi River Basin and the northern Gulf of Mexico.

According to the lawsuit, the excessive nutrient pollution in the waters causes or contributes to a massive low-oxygen “dead zone” in the Gulf and extensive water quality degradation.”

Read more: Legal Newsline

Raiding the Bread Basket: Use and Abuse of the Mississippi River Basin

Photo retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“A fleck of phosphorus fertilizer costs a farmer almost nothing. “But that half pinhead per gallon can cost society millions in lost recreational value and cleanup costs,” said Downing, an Iowa State University professor whose water-monitoring group tests 137 Iowa lakes.  “We don’t have lakes that we could point to and say: ‘Here is a pristine lake that has been unimpacted by people.’ ”

You wake up to cereal made from midwestern corn. You slip on cotton clothes, get into a vehicle fueled partly by ethanol and dine later on chicken and rice—all made possible by crops from the Mississippi River Basin, a vast area that stretches from Montana to New York and drains all or parts of 31 states.

The part of the basin east of the Mississippi River largely relies on rain to grow crops; farmers on the west side irrigate much, much more. All told, it’s among the most productive farming regions in the world.

Trouble is, fertilizer that flows from fields (and cities) takes a toll on local waters and eventually reaches the Mississippi River and the economically important fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico, where nitrogen and phosphorus pollution suffocates marine life and has led to a dead zone larger than the state of Connecticut.

What’s Grown

Nearly four out of 10 ears of corn grown in the world come from the Mississippi River watershed. So much corn, soy, and wheat grow here that some communities claim superlatives—Decatur, Illinois, “Soybean Capital of the World;” Sumner County, Kansas, “Wheat Capital of the World;” and Iowa, “Food Capital of the World.” The lion’s share of the country’s corn, grain, livestock, poultry, cotton, sorghum, and soy is grown in the Mississippi basin.”

Read more: National Geographic

 

Satellite Images Show Large Sediment Plumes From Flooding

Satellite image shows the large amount of sediment that has been deposited along the coastline and wetlands of Louisiana. Retrieved from: www.cnn.com

“Dramatic satellite images show large deposits of sediment in coastal Louisiana, the receiving end of the massive flooding on the Mississippi River.

The sediment gush has a down and up side in region known for its seafood and delicate wetlands, a federal official said Friday.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and NASA recently provided the stark imagery of the sediment plumes to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Louisiana to assist them with flood response.

“We live in historic times,” said Phil Turnipseed, director of the USGS’s National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, Louisiana.

The tan and brown plumes resulted from millions of gallons of sediment-laden freshwater rushing to the Gulf through spillways, river channels and levees.

See flooding map from USGS

A map on the USGS website allows users to call up the plumes and see flood data collected by government agencies.

The opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway caused a sediment plume in Lake Pontchartrain above New Orleans. Another plume resulted from the opening of the Morganza Spillway and flooding on the Atchafalaya River. The third is where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico.”

Read more: CNN

 

White House Lifts Ban On Offshore Drilling

Photo retrieved from: www.npr.org

“The Obama administration announced Tuesday that companies able to meet new safety standards will be allowed to drill in the Gulf of Mexico, ending a six-month moratorium that had been scheduled to end next month.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the new rules imposed after the BP spill — the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history — have strengthened safety measures and reduced the risk of another catastrophic blowout.

“Operators who play by the rules and clear the higher bar can be allowed to resume” drilling, Salazar said at a Washington news conference. He added: “The oil and gas industry will be operating under tighter rules, stronger oversight, and in a regulatory environment that will remain dynamic as we continue to build on the reforms we have already implemented.”

The administration has been under heavy pressure from the industry and others in the region to lift the ban on grounds it has cost jobs and damaged the economy. A federal report said the moratorium likely caused a temporary loss of 8,000 to 12,000 jobs in the Gulf region.”

Read more: NPR