EPA Report Indicates Increasing Man-Made Dead Zones In Our Waterways
According to the EPA:
"The interagency report notes that incidents of hypoxia—a condition in which oxygen levels drop so low that fish and other animals are stressed or killed--–have increased nearly 30-fold since 1960. Incidents of hypoxia were documented in nearly 50 percent of the 647 waterways assessed for the new report, including the Gulf of Mexico, home to one of the largest such zones in the world."Abnormal levels of hypoxia are primarily the result of runoff into our waterways of nitrogen and phosphorus, used as fertilizer. The single largest crop requiring regular fertilization using these chemicals is corn. According to the USDA, corn fertilization requires almost 40% of all nitrogen used as fertilizer in the US, and nearly 30% of all phosphorus fertilizer.
According to this article published in a Yale University environmental newsletter:
"Corn acreage, which expanded by over 15 percent in 2007 in response to ethanol demands, requires extensive fertilization, adding to nitrogen and phosphorus that run off into lakes and streams and eventually enter the Mississippi River watershed. This is aggravated by systems of subterranean tiles and drains — 98 percent of Iowa’s arable fields are tiled — that accelerate field drainage into ditches and local watersheds.
As a result, loadings of nitrogen and phosphorus into the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico encourage algae growth, starving water bodies of oxygen needed by aquatic life and enlarging the hypoxic “dead zone” in the gulf."
This satellite photo from NASA and NOAA shows the extent of the spread of these chemicals and their effect in the Gulf.
NOTE: this study was completed prior to the BP/Deepwater Horizon disaster, so the study results do not include the additional damage to oxygen levels in the water from the spilled oil.
|Satellite photo from NASA/NOAA|
Something has to give. The majority of corn currently grown is used to to feed our livestock. If we are going to have a chance of meeting mandated levels of ethanol production in the coming years, there are three options. Continued on the next page