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A hearing was convened by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife on October 4 - Nutrient Pollution: An Overview of Nutrient Reduction Approaches - to document nutrient pollution as a national threat and discuss the causes and impacts of nutrient pollution, in addition to the various mitigation approaches.  In his opening remarks, Sen. Cardin stated that “Dead zones with little or no oxygen caused by nutrient pollution are threatening America’s waters and lakes, as well as the jobs and regional economies nationwide that depend on these great water bodies”. In addition, he summarized the growing problem of nutrient pollution, especially in the Great lakes and coastal estuaries such as the Chesapeake Bay, the waters of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.  Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) described EPA's approach to reducing nutrient pollutants as more like “coercive federalism” than cooperative federalism


A group comprised of two panels discussed the nationwide growing problem of nutrient pollution including dead zones and algal blooms, its causes, effects, impacts and mitigation approaches. Stormwater was considered to be a major contributor of non-point source leading to nutrient pollution, especially within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Green Infrastructure was also touted as a promising technique to mitigate nutrient pollution. Mr. George Hawkins of D.C. Water highlighted some of city’s projects that are promoting the use of Green Infrastructure to protect the health of the Chesapeake Bay, and includes construction of rain gardens, green roofs and bioswales along streets to reduce CSOs throughout the District and “The Digester Project” which involves thermal hydrolysis for wastewater treatment, thereby producing clean, green renewable power and a high quality soil product.


Many of the witnesses had differing opinions about the extent of the nutrient problem and the best approaches. However, they stressed that states must be give authority and should work on a watershed basis to reduce nutrient pollution and that a one-size fits all (a single state-wide nutrient standard) approach is not practical to implement nutrient pollution reductions. On this issue, Ms. Shellie Chard-McClary (a WEF member with the State of OK) testified that “A single number for nitrogen or phosphorus is not often an accurate indicator of adverse ecological or water quality effects. We have to look at other factors - like biology - and develop with EPA a flexible approach to controlling nutrients in the environment”.  The preferred approach by witnesses would involve collaboration between various states and EPA and working towards mitigating nutrient pollution at a watershed scale. Witness Statements