EPA and “Water Subcabinet” Members Host Nutrient Roundtable with Key Stakeholders

(May 21, 2019) – The US Environmental Protection Agency’s Assistant Administrator for Water, David Ross, along with representatives from the US Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Interior (DOI) and Commerce (DOC), hosted a roundtable on nutrient-related pollution in Baton Rouge, LA last week.

Mr. Ross, along with his counterparts at USDA, DOI, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (under the DOC), convened more than 40 representatives from state departments of agriculture, the farming community, academia, municipalities, and others to discuss how best to accelerate progress on reducing nutrient discharges to the nation’s waters.

The group of federal representatives from the various agencies with responsibility for water-related issues, which calls itself the “Water Subcabinet”—and also includes the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy—has been meeting regularly to discuss water quantity and quality issues, and how best to coordinate activities among the federal family.

The discussion in Baton Rouge focused on water quality, and nutrients in particular, and the federal agencies provided updates on current coordinated nutrient reduction efforts. The discussion sought input from participants on actions that the federal government can take to facilitate greater nutrient reductions, and also explored new opportunities for market-based coordination and federal support for ongoing state nutrient reduction activities. 

NACWA Board Members Tom Sigmund, Executive Director for NEW Water in Green Bay, WI, and Steve Hershner, Utilities Director for the City of Cedar Rapids, IA, represented the Association along with NACWA’s Deputy CEO, Chris Hornback. EPA plans to hold additional roundtable discussions on the nutrient issue.

NACWA staff also participated in the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force meeting, which took place the day after the roundtable, highlighting the work underway to track point and nonpoint source reductions of nutrients and new technologies, including LIDAR, that are being used to help track progress.

During the public comment period, Healthy Gulf—known formerly as the Gulf Restoration Network, which previously petitioned EPA to establish a TMDL for the Mississippi River Basin—criticized the Task Force for a lack of progress in making reductions to Gulf of Mexico nutrient loadings.

Members with questions can contact Chris Hornback.