Nonpoint source pollution is the largest unaddressed source of water pollution in the country. This type of contamination typically happens when rain and snowmelt move pollutants across the land and into rivers, lakes, streams, and other waters.
We cannot have drinkable, fishable, swimmable water while nonpoint source pollution runs rampant. It’s time for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to tackle this threat to clean water and protect the wellbeing of our communities.
According to EPA, nonpoint source pollution can include:
- Excess fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides from agricultural lands and residential areas
- Oil, grease and toxic chemicals from urban runoff and energy production
- Sediment from improperly managed construction sites, crop and forest lands, and eroding streambanks
- Salt from irrigation practices and acid drainage from abandoned mines
- Bacteria and nutrients from livestock, pet wastes and faulty septic systems
- Atmospheric deposition and hydromodification
One of the all too common ways that nonpoint source pollution rears its ugly head is by way of toxic algal blooms. These events are caused when manure or fertilizer runs off a field with rain into a waterway, and combines with other sources of nitrogen and phosphorus to increase nutrient levels beyond which the waterbody can withstand. It can be devastating for wildlife, resulting in massive fish kills. But the threats don’t end there. Toxic algae blooms can also negatively impact drinking water, as well as the local economies that rely on fishing and tourism.
Because nonpoint source pollution is not regulated through permitting systems under the Clean Water Act, controlling these sources is largely left up to state and tribal governments. With limited legal authorities and funding at the state level, the controls needed to protect waterways and the public are inadequate.
EPA can do much more to ensure that the states fully implement other Clean Water Act requirements and that federal funds are being used to meaningfully reduce nonpoint source pollution.
We surveyed our own Waterkeeper groups recently to ascertain the biggest threats to their watersheds. When asked if the need for regulation of nonpoint source pollution was of particular importance to their watershed, over 85% of respondents said yes. These groups work all over the country from the Long Island Sound to the Los Angeles River, from dense metropolitan areas like Baltimore and Milwaukee to more rural areas in Colorado and Alabama. One serious problem they all share is nonpoint source pollution, an unfortunately common threat to watersheds across the country.
EPA must do everything in its power, including exercising its oversight authority to ensure that states are adopting protective water quality standards, meeting pollution loading requirements in impaired waterways, and ensuring federally funded projects are actually reducing nutrient pollution. The government must also prioritize the use of newly available infrastructure funding to assist communities in controlling water pollution from nonpoint sources and the promoting of green infrastructure.
Your supportive action can help encourage EPA to fully implement Clean Water Act requirements to include nonpoint source pollution. Contact EPA Administrator Regan today in support of these urgently needed protections.