WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard will hold a hearing on “Harmful Algal Blooms: The Impact on Our Nation’s Waters.” Bart Johnsen-Harris, Clean Water Advocate for Environment America, issued the following statement:
“Toxic algal outbreaks are not new, but they are getting worse. We can stop these algal outbreaks only if we stop the pollution that feeds them.
“From Florida to the Great Lakes to California, we are seeing widespread outbreaks of toxic algae in our waterways. The outbreaks taint our drinking water and our beaches, kill wildlife and pets, and put our children in harm’s way.
“Pollution causes most of this toxic algae. Manure and fertilizer from agribusiness, sewage overflows and stormwater runoff all release nitrogen and phosphorus into our waterways. These “nutrients” help make things grow, and in the water, they create a virtual feeding frenzy for algae.
“We need to start reducing this algal-inducing pollution now. While data can be helpful, more monitoring and studies alone will not halt the pressing public health threat of toxic algal outbreaks.
“So at today’s hearing, we hope senators will call for real reductions in water pollution. Federal funding — including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) — should encourage a transition to growing our food in ways that no longer pollute our water. We also need to repair aging infrastructure, from sewage treatment plants to septic systems, that leaks algae-inducing pollution. Moreover, we need robust implementation of the Clean Water Act — including clear numeric limits on pollution in waterways blighted by toxic algae.
“Conversely, the last thing we need is the weakening of federal clean water protections. The Clean Water Rule restored federal protections to millions of acres of wetlands, which help filter out the pollutants that cause algal outbreaks. Senators determined to stop toxic algal outbreaks should oppose the administration’s efforts to weaken such protections.”