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Streams, Rivers Suffering From Fertilizer Runoff, EPA Says

Environmental Protection Agency releases latest survey on water body health

Published on: Mar 27, 2013

Approximately 55% of the nation's rivers and streams are in poor condition for aquatic life, an Environmental Protection Agency survey released Tuesday found, citing pressure from nitrogen or phosphorus runoff, rising bacteria levels or diminishing surrounding vegetation.

"The health of our Nation's rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters depends on the vast network of streams where they begin, and this new science shows that America's streams and rivers are under significant pressure," said Nancy Stoner, Office of Water acting assistant administrator

Environmental Protection Agency releases latest survey on water body health
Environmental Protection Agency releases latest survey on water body health

The most prevalent contaminants EPA found through data collected from approximately 2,000 sites across the country, are nitrogen and phosphorus – showing up in excessive levels in 27% and 40% of streams and rivers, respectively.

Data for the survey was collected between 2008-2009 by states and tribes and analyzed by EPA, state and university scientists.

The assessment also looked at how stressors would impact overall health over time. EPA says too much nitrogen and phosphorus in the water can harm water quality by promoting algae growth. The algae limits food resources and habitats, and decreases the oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need.

Higher mercury levels also appeared as a concern. EPA says 13,000 miles of rivers have fish with mercury levels that might be unsafe for consumption. Eating fish with high mercury levels may harm an unborn baby or young child's developing nervous system.

High bacteria levels were found in 9% of stream and river miles, creating concern for recreational use.

Health vegetative cover, which improves resistance to flooding, erosion and pollution, was also examined in the latest assessment. EPA found 24% of rivers and streams were rated "poor" because of limited or decreased vegetative cover. The vegetation also helps to maintain water temperatures and slow river flows.

EPA says it will use the data to make decisions regarding water body health. The survey will also help develop improvements to monitoring these rivers and streams across jurisdictional boundaries and enhance the ability of states and tribes to assess and manage water quality.

"We must continue to invest in protecting and restoring our nation's streams and rivers as they are vital sources of our drinking water, provide many recreational opportunities, and play a critical role in the economy," Stoner said.

Click here for a look at the full survey.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This article reads like an environmentalist fairy tale. There are so many traps for landowners and producers in it, I fear we won't be farming our land much longer. Read carefully, AND between the lines. Under EPA's utopian ideal, streams, rivers and lakes would all be as perfectly balanced as the aquarium in the waiting room of your dentist office. It will be like their idea that our meat should be so safe, we can eat it raw with no risk. Of course, it will be fine for the buffalo herd to pass through, wade into, defecate and drink in the streams and lakes. They are "natural". Google "Buffalo Commons" for a glimpse of what Ted Turner and the heirs to the Mars Candy fortune plan for your future, if you live on the Great Plains. Best we can do is duck our heads and try to fly under the radar until this period of statist overreach passes since no one seems to be inclined to fight, unless they find themselves a victum. I'm thankful to be living in the Great American Desert, where there are no streams and rivers. Any time the government tells you they are going to assess, manage, develop improvements and make decisions to protect your property, what they are really saying is that they plan to inhibit your freedom to use the property you bought and paid for. It would be like inhibiting a homeowner's use of their kitchen, back yard, or garage. These flaming enviro-freaks actually believe that recreational use, trumps raising food. TxTornado

  2. Dan says:

    Concern for phosphorus since they can make rules and easy to measure but a total disregard for N since it is harder. Regulations for farmers but none for homeowners, golf courses, etc. Fines for farmer pollution but nothing said when town septic systems fail and raw sewage is dumped into rivers.. When will government look at whole picture?

  3. Dan says:

    Government has programs to clean streams of trees so water flows better then builds dams to slow water. Programs to encourage no till to conserve soil and then regulations to make mandatory tillage to conserve water. Programs to regulate manure levels and time of application and a total disregard of farm application of fertilizer with no animals. Concern for phosphorous

  4. Anonymous says:

    Wow! Does this mean that our no-till buddies with 120 foot spray booms who "blow the fertilizer on top of their wonderful residue" and don't incorporate it into the soil structure with a little tillage to capture and hold it in the root zone are really encouraging fertilizer to run off into our steams??? Maybe farmers should think this through--with no-till we are saving our soil but poisoning our water because we don't lock the fertilizer into the soil structure. And lets not forget the other added "benefit" of no-till we are breeding tougher and better weeds which takes more and new chemicals to kill. Got to go--need to buy some more DuPont and Monsanto stock!!!!