FB: Sound Science Will Unlock Hypoxia Puzzle
WASHINGTON, D.C., August 27, 2004 A new report developed by the Environmental Protection Agency's Region 4 indicates phosphorous from point sources rather than nitrogen is the likely cause of hypoxia in the northern Gulf of Mexico. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the underlying science in the EPA report appears to contradict an earlier assessment of Gulf hypoxia.
The initial assessment of Gulf hypoxia was conducted by the previous administration's White House Office of Science and Technology's Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR). The new Region 4 EPA study is significant and undermines the credibility of the original Hypoxia Task Force and the present Gulf Program, Farm Bureau said.
"We recognize this internal EPA study is contentious, but the data is compelling and represents a shift in thinking," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "If the conclusions of the earlier CENR assessment were flawed, it follows that the nitrogen control and management measures imposed on farmers and ranchers were misdirected. Significant public and private resources have been spent solving the wrong problem."
Hypoxia is a deficiency of oxygen that occurs in water when an overabundance of nutrients triggers excessive algae growth. As the algae die and decompose, oxygen is consumed, resulting in so-called "dead zones" that present challenges to aquatic life.
Farm Bureau said the data indicates "something went wrong" in the initial CENR assessment process, with inappropriate information used and other relevant data ignored.
"Commendably, agency officials at Region 4 EPA went the extra mile to ensure that sound science was employed," said Stallman. "The picture now looks considerably different from what farmers and ranchers were earlier led to believe."
EPA's study focused on the inconsistencies in the initial CENR report and its conclusions, which originally pointed to nitrogen as the nutrient responsible for causing hypoxia in the Gulf. The inconsistencies led EPA to reevaluate CENR's conclusions as well as the "Hypoxia Action Plan" issued by the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force. According to AFBF, EPA's study suggests "today's best science indicates nitrogen, while present, is not the nutrient responsible for the volume of hypoxia in the Gulf." Rather, "the science suggests that phosphorus from point (industrial) sources is the nutrient that fuels excessive algae growth and causes the resulting hypoxia."
The study concludes that EPA does not have enough science-based information to justify the aggressive point and nonpoint source regulations outlined in the Hypoxia Action Plan.
Stallman said America's farmers and ranchers look forward to being part of the solution to the hypoxia situation in the Gulf of Mexico. "Agriculture remains committed to addressing local water quality challenges and will continue to implement best nutrient management practices as they provide significant farm and local benefits."
EPA's Region 4 includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Though there are other versions of the Region 4 EPA report available, all report the same findings regarding Phosphorous and the CENR assessment's misuse of the Redfield Ratio. Those reports are listed below, as is a review of the August 2004 report by Derek Winstanley of the Illinois State Water Survey.