The Chester, Ill., Mississippi River bridge.
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois EPA Director Lisa Bonnett and Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Robert Flider announced that the public is invited to provide comments on a new statewide effort designed to improve water quality in Illinois and the Gulf of Mexico.
The public comment period for the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy is open, and comments must be postmarked by midnight Jan. 24.
The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy aims to guide statewide efforts to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen losses that end up in Illinois waterways and the Gulf of Mexico. These nutrients spur algae blooms that deplete oxygen levels, hinder recreation, and threaten public health. Nutrient pollution can also degrade drinking water quality and require cities to install costly treatment equipment.
The strategy outlines practices to reduce nutrient losses from point sources such as wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, and non-point sources, including runoff from farm fields and city streets. It uses scientific assessments to target the most critical watersheds and to build upon existing state and industry programs. The goal is to reduce the amount of total phosphorus and nitrate-nitrogen reaching Illinois waters by 45 percent. Recommendations include establishing committees to coordinate water quality monitoring, developing specific measuring criteria, improving urban stormwater programs and education, improving agriculture stakeholder and agency collaboration, and defining a regular review and revision process.
Illinois EPA and Illinois Department of Agriculture developed the strategy with representatives from state and federal agencies, agriculture, and nonprofit organizations as well as scientists and wastewater treatment processionals. The one-year effort was facilitated by the Illinois Water Resources Center at the University of Illinois and marks the most comprehensive and integrated approach to date for addressing point and non-point sources of nutrients in Illinois.
The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy was developed in response to the federal 2008 Gulf of Mexico Action Plan, which calls for the 12 states in the Mississippi River Basin to develop strategies to reduce loading to the Gulf of Mexico, where excess nutrients have led to an aquatic life “dead zone” that stretches for thousands of miles.
For more information on the strategy and public comment period, visit www.epa.state.il.us/water/nutrient/nlrs.html.