Last week, EPA awarded $9 million in research grants to four institutions to conduct research on phosphorus and nitrogen pollution in our waterways. This type of pollution is knows as "nutrient pollution," and though nutrients are typically thought of as a good thing (indeed, we often buy foods fortified with nutrients for added health benefits), in this case, nutrient pollution poses risks to public health. It reduces oxygen levels in waters which allows bacteria to grow and can kill aquatic life. The purpose of these grants is to study ways to best limit the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus (aka "nutrient pollution") that enters streams, lakes, and rivers.
The press release reads:
WASHINGTON – Today at the 14th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy and the Environment, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy announced grants to four research institutions for innovative and sustainable water research to manage harmful nutrient pollution. Nutrient pollution is one of America's most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems, and is caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus in waterways.
“These grants will go towards 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,” said Administrator McCarthy.
When excessive nitrogen and phosphorus enter our waterways — usually via stormwater runoff and industrial activities — our water can become polluted. Nutrient pollution has impacted many streams, rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters for the past several decades, resulting in serious environmental and health issues, and negatively impacting the economy. For example, nutrient pollution can reduce oxygen levels in water, leading to illnesses in fish and the death of large numbers of fish. In some cases nutrient pollution leads to elevated toxins and bacterial growth in waters that can make people sick.
The Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grants, announced by Administrator McCarthy today, are an integral part of EPA’s research on water quality and availability. Improving existing water infrastructure is costly, which makes creating new and sustainable approaches to water use, reuse and nutrient management important.
These grants 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; and
— 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.
For more information on the grants and projects, visit http://epa.gov/ncer/nutrient.
For more information on EPA-funded research supporting water quality and availability, visit http://www.epa.gov/research/waterscience.