Rivers and Lakes
ELPC has created a suite of innovative new education and advocacy websites that put a human face on the water quality issues in several states – Illinois, Iowa and Indiana. These sites combine powerful, professional storytelling that weaves together personal stories, technical data and historical information in articles, photos and videos with interactive tools that allow users to add their own stories and photos and take action on important issues.
Although the Clean Water Act does an adequate job regulating individual “point-sources” of pollution (e.g. discharges from sewage treatment plants and industry), it does not cover agricultural runoff and other “non-point” discharges. While every state in the Midwest has at least some non-point pollution control programs, the details and effectiveness of such participation varies by state. ELPC worked with The Mississippi River Collaborative to evaluate each state’s efforts to reduce non-point source pollution, our report Cultivating Clean Water, collects these evaluations and recommends effective strategies that all states can adopt.
ELPC has worked extensively to implement and enforce the Clean Water Act’s important antidegradation requirements. These rules, intended to “keep clean water clean,” have been seriously underutilized by states in the Midwest. In 2002, ELPC persuaded Illinois to adopt antidegradation rules that are among the strongest in the nation, and persuaded Iowa to adopt similar rules in 2010. We are advocating for Indiana, Kentucky, and several other states to adopt similar rules. In September 2008, ELPC attorneys prevailed in a federal lawsuit challenging U.S. EPA for its approval of weak antidegradation standards in Kentucky. This case will provide important precedent for our efforts to promote strong antidegradation standards throughout the region.
Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are causing major water quality problems in the Midwest and a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. These pollutants come primarily fertilizer and other agricultural runoff as well as wastewater treatment plants that discharge into our rivers. ELPC has worked at the federal, regional and state level to develop protective numeric nutrient standards for the Mississippi River basin. ELPC’s advocacy persuaded Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board to approve phosphorus standards in June 2010. Working with the Clean Water Network and NRDC, we have written and met with U.S. EPA headquarters regarding phosphorus controls that could be established immediately and urged U.S. EPA to work more aggressively to cause adoption of nitrogen standards to protect the Gulf of Mexico.