EPA hands out grants to fight nutrient pollution

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The Environmental Protection Agency awarded nearly $9 million in grants to researchers who are trying to manage nutrient pollution, a type of water pollution that creates the Gulf of Mexico’s so-called “dead zone.”

The EPA announced the grants to four research institutions for innovative and sustainable water research to manage harmful nutrient pollution. The agency said nutrient pollution is one of America's most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems, and is caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus in waterways.

Research has linked a large oxygen-depleted dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico to ethanol production, as well as storm water runoff and industrial activities.

“These grants will go toward research to help us better manage nutrients and better protect our precious water resources from the dangers of nutrient pollution, especially in a changing climate,” EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement.

Nutrient pollution has affected many streams, rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters for the past several decades, resulting in serious environmental and health issues, and negatively affecting the economy, the EPA said. For example, nutrient pollution can reduce oxygen levels in water, leading to illnesses in fish and the death of large numbers of fish. Such areas are sometimes called “dead zones.”

In some cases nutrient pollution leads to elevated toxins and bacterial growth in waters that can make people sick, the EPA said.

The agency said the grants will support sustainable water research and demonstration projects consistent with a comprehensive strategy for managing nutrients and active community engagement throughout the research process.

The following institutions received grants:

• Pennsylvania State University Center for Integrated Multi-Scale Nutrient Pollution Solutions, to focus on nutrient flows in Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake basin;

• University of South Florida Center for Reinventing Aging Infrastructure for Nutrient Management, to support Tampa Bay and similar coastal areas as they face problems of aging wastewater collection and treatment systems and rapid population growth;

• Colorado State University, Center for Comprehensive, Optimal, and Effective Abatement of Nutrients, for linking physical, biological, legal, social and economic aspects of nutrient management in the western and eastern United States;

• Water Environment Research Foundation, Alexandria, Va., National Center for Resource Recovery and Nutrient Management, for innovative research in nutrient reduction through resource recovery and behavioral factors affecting acceptance and implementation.

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