The 2,340-mile Mississippi River flows from the Great Lakes through ten states — Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana — before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, it provides drinking water for more than 18 million people as well as vital cultural, recreational, economic and wildlife resources to the entire country.
Runoff pollution from urban and rural sources along the river and its many tributaries is drastically under-regulated. The excess nitrogen, phosphorus and other materials that flow into small streams and rivers across a third of the country eventually find their way into the Mississippi and then the Gulf of Mexico. Locally, this “non-point pollution” causes excess algae that blooms into stinky and sometimes toxic masses that can decrease property values, disrupt tourism, and harm aquatic life. In the Gulf of Mexico, it creates a massive “dead zone” where no oxygen is available for native aquatic life to thrive.
Every state in the Midwest has at least some non-point pollution control programs, but the details and effectiveness of them varies widely.
What is ELPC Doing?
ELPC is a part of the Mississippi River Water Quality Collaborative, a diverse group of more than 20 regional and national non-profit organizations devoted to protecting our nation’s largest river. Our attorneys work with the Collaborative to:
- Advance Anti-Degradation Standards – The federal Clean Water Act’s anti-degradation requirements are designed to keep clean waters clean and improve public participation in decisions involving water quality. ELPC is a national leader on crafting and implementing anti-degradation standards.
- Promoting Better Water Quality Standards – ELPC is working to improve water quality criteria that better control nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, as well as other water pollutants.
- Implementing and Enforcing Existing Standards – ELPC reviews water pollution permits issued by state and federal agencies to evaluate whether permits reflect current law. When permits are found to be deficient, ELPC advocates for reasonable solutions that protect the environment and abide by federal clean water laws.