Small percentage of rural counties contribute to fertilizer pollution

Monday, September 21, 2009

Chicago Tribune, Andrew Martin

Published April 9, 2006


A new study on Monday found that a relatively small percentage of rural counties – many of them in Illinois – are contributing most of the fertilizer pollution that is creating a summertime “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, where massive algae blooms snuff out most aquatic life.

Counties that represent 15 percent of the Mississippi River basin, which stretches from Montana to western Pennsylvania, account for 80 percent of the fertilizer pollution that washes into the river, according to the report by the Washington-based Environmental Working Group.

Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said the analysis makes a strong argument that more federal money should be shifted from farm subsidies to conservation programs in the areas that contribute the most fertilizer runoff into the river. He noted that thousands of farmers have been denied funding for conservation programs because there simply wasn’t enough money to pay them.

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