OpEd: The Case for Water Quality Policy (Cook County, IL) — In 2015 Illinois Environmental Protection Agency established a goal to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in Illinois waterways by 45%, with interim reduction goals of 15% nitrate-nitrogen and 25% total phosphorus by 2025 in response to a lawsuit brought against 12 states in the Mississippi River Basin for our contribution to the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone. As a result, select wastewater treatment plants must prepare a Nutrient Assessment Reduction Plan. But this is not enough to reach the goals. It will take a village to meet the 2025 interim and long-term goals, and partnerships are required to guide the implementation of nutrient reduction strategies in wastewater treatment plants, fertilizer application in agriculture, golf courses, residential lawn care, and school car wash fundraisers. Yet in Cook County Illinois, only one wastewater treatment plant operated by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago contains nutrient reduction technology for a portion of the treatment capacity.
Illinois is one of only 16 states remaining without water reuse policy, and a water quality treating credit program is needed to effectively partner with agriculture following examples in other states such as Iowa and Pennsylvania. This is an opportunity for innovation before taxation to grow our Blue Economy by increasing climate resilience for our industry and decreasing pollution discharge to our environment through combined sewer overflows that flow into our drinking water supply once a year on average and down to the Gulf of Mexico. Combined sewer overflows are predicted to increase with increases in extreme weather, and how we adapt to climate change is the foremost social justice issue of our time. Water policy is needed, and it will likely require an act of our state legislature. Science has become political, so it is more important than ever to elect scientists as we face climate change.
OpEd: The Case for Water Quality Policy