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E-M:/ Pollution Paralysis II: Code Red for Watersheds

Enviro-Mich message from "TONY DEFALCO" <DEFALCO@nwf.org>

This week, the National Wildlife Federation released a report, Pollution Paralysis II: Code Red for Watersheds (http://nwf.org/watersheds/paralysis/index.html) showing that 38 states, including Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota are doing a poor job in addressing non-point source pollution under the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) provision of the nation's Clean Water Act. In the TMDL program, states are required to protect waterways impaired from non-point pollution - pollution like pathogens, mercury, excess nutrients, low oxygen, fecal coliform - from sources other than a specific discharge pipe into a waterway.

In recent months, all three states have stepped up efforts to develop TMDLs to address various pollutants.

All three states share one common pollutant: mercury. This same pollutant, of course, is responsible for statewide fish consumption advisories in Michigan, and widespread advisories in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Reducing mercury contamination in fish in these Upper Great Lakes states involves addressing non-point sources such as coal-fired power plants, chlor-alkali facilities and incinerators. Emissions of mercury from these sources enter the atmosphere and are deposited back to earth in the air, rain and snow eventually ending up in our streams and lakes.

The Upper Great Lakes states need to aggressively enforce this provision of the Clean Water Act to protect the health of people and wildlife from this pollutant and others.

A bright spot is in Minnesota, where NWF, industry, municipalities, state and federal regulatory agencies and the public have been working on a TMDL for mercury in the St. Louis River, the largest US tributary to Lake Superior. The St. Louis River does not meet water quality standards for mercury and fish consumption advisories for species such as walleye exist. For more information about this promising effort, visit: http://nwf.org/nwf/watersheds/stlouis/index.html

* Your help is needed *
Recently, the EPA proposed rules to strengthen the TMDL provision. Two industries (agriculture and timber) have come out lobbying strongly against these proposed rules. For the most part, NWF supports the proposed rules. Your help is needed to ensure that Congress enacts rules that strengthens the TMDL provision and ensures that protection and clean-up of our rivers and lakes proceeds apace. Write to your federal representatives asking them to give EPA and the states the strongest rule possible to protect water quality from non-point source pollution.

The national press release follows.

Tony DeFalco
Lake Superior Project Organizer
National Wildlife Federation

* * * * * *
Clean Water Act Provisions Ignored, 
Putting People and Wildlife at Risk

Contact: Brenda Box (703) 790-4089
	Andy Buchsbaum (734) 769-3351

WASHINGTON -- A newly released report by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) reveals that at least 21 states are ignoring the law and putting people and wildlife at risk by failing to address the nation's leading sources of water pollution: polluted runoff and contaminated rain. The report documents that the results of this inaction include sickness in both people and fish, harm to endangered wildlife, and the pollution of more than 300,000 miles of rivers and shorelines and approximately five million acres of lakes.

"Pollution Paralysis II: Code Red for Watersheds" exhaustively reviews each state's use of a critical approach mandated by the Clean Water Act to stem water degradation by polluted runoff and contaminated rain.  The law mandates that states must place limits on all sources of pollution entering impaired waterways and take steps to ensure that those limits are not exceeded.  But, until now, states have focused almost all their attention on pollution discharged from pipes, with many virtually ignoring the serious problems of polluted runoff and contaminated rain.

"The American public should be appalled that states are ignoring the law and putting people at risk, particularly when the tools exist to correct this problem," said Mark Van Putten, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.  "Our rivers, lakes and streams are in critical condition, and many states refuse to pick up the phone and call 911."

The report summarizes each state's program and gives it a grade. Nationally, 21 states and territories received a failing grade, including Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Minnesota, New York and Texas.  The states doing the most to address the problem of diffuse pollution were Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon and West Virginia.  No states were found to be taking adequate anti-pollution steps to deserve an "A".

"The states' progress in implementing these critical controls on the leading sources of water pollution has been dismal," said NWF staff scientist Dr. Michael Murray, a co-author of the report. "Because of a combination of political intimidation by certain industries and bureaucratic inertia, most states are not adequately addressing polluted runoff and contaminated rain. And our lakes, streams and coasts are paying the price."

A sequel to NWF's 1997 "Pollution Paralysis" report, "Pollution Paralysis II" reveals that while pollution from pipes has decreased because of the Clean Water Act, pollution from other sources continues and is causing increasing harm to our lakes and streams.  The report notes that:

*	One out of five drinking water systems still violates drinking water safety requirements;
*	 Each year, it is estimated that over 900,000 people get sick and almost 900 deaths occur from drinking contaminated water;

*	In 1998, states and counties reported more than 7,000 days of beach closings due to high levels of bacterial contamination;
*	Since 1993, a New Jersey-sized "dead zone" of barren, oxygen-depleted coastal waters has spread from the mouth of the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico.

"This summer, many Americans will be vacationing near rivers, lakes and streams where they can't eat the fish they catch, or they'll go to beaches where, on some days, they won't be allowed to swim," says Kari Dolan, NWF water resources manager and co-author of the report. "Many states are not providing the necessary resources and funds to monitor and restore these waters, and that just defies common sense."

The report demonstrates that the law will work if states decide to apply it to clean up their waterways.  The report documents a handful of success stories where a state has used the law to restore a lake or stream.

Because of the slow progress documented in NWF's report, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued proposed regulations to speed up states cleanup efforts.  The proposed rules include requirements that states implement the pollution caps and reduce the pollution from the large agribusiness and timber operations responsible for impairing waterways.

"EPA's proposal is a good first step, but it still leaves too many loopholes for polluters," said Andy Buchsbaum, NWF's water quality projects manager.  "For example, it allows polluters to dump more pollution into already contaminated streams.  And it doesn't even cover some types of pollution."

The nation's watersheds are threatened by pollution from various sources, including urban runoff of lawn fertilizers and pet waste, atmospheric deposits from coal-fired power plants, nutrients from livestock operations, and runoff from logging operations.  

"Polluters have mounted a public pressure campaign, even enlisting some members of Congress, to lobby EPA to weaken the law even more," says Buchsbaum.  "For the sake of our lakes and streams and the wildlife and people who depend on them, the law needs to be strengthened, not watered down."

Pollution Paralysis II  is available at http://nwf.org/watersheds/paralysis/index.html

The nation's largest member-supported conservation group, the National Wildlife Federation unites people from all walks of life to protect nature, wildlife and the world we all share. NWF has educated and inspired families to uphold America's conservation tradition since 1936.

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