Environmentalists: EPA plan to clean up Mississippi River not working

The river from Harriet Island Park
The Mississippi River as seen from Harriet Island Park in St. Paul, Minn. on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016.
Evan Frost | MPR News File

A federal plan that aims to have states implement practices to address pollution in the Mississippi River isn't working, according to a report released Thursday by a coalition of environmental groups.

The Mississippi River Collaborative called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to toughen their approach to cleaning up nutrient pollution before President-elect Trump takes office.

The problem is nutrient pollution coming from farm fields and wastewater treatment plants are flowing into the Mississippi.

"The Clean Water Act is very clear on what the EPA and what the country expects as far as waters that are fishable, swimmable and drinkable. That does not change with a new administration," said Matt Rota, senior policy director for the Gulf Restoration Network, which is part of the collaborative.

But how the Clean Water Act is enforced could very well change under President-elect Trump, who wants to cut the EPA. Instead, the dispute is expected to play out in court, where the groups have already filed a lawsuit against the EPA.

The EPA established a partnership with states bordering the Mississippi in 2011 to reduce nutrient pollution. But Rota said the states aren't doing their job.

"That accountability isn't there, and EPA is kind of the backstop for a lot of this accountability," he said.

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