I just toured the Science Museum of Minnesota with a great group of 8th graders. One of the demonstrations showed a large dead area in the Gulf of Mexico. “The Gulf of Mexico dead zone is an area of hypoxic (less than 2 ppm dissolved oxygen) waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Its area varies in size, but can cover up to 6,000-7,000 square miles. The zone occurs between the inner and mid-continental shelf in the northern Gulf of Mexico, beginning at the Mississippi River delta and extending westward to the upper Texas coast“.(serc.carleton.edu)
This dead zone is caused by nutrient enrichment from the Mississippi River, particularly nitrogen and phosphorous. Watersheds within the Mississippi River Basin drain much of the United States. This is mainly caused by agriculture and soil erosion, this process is made worse by flooding and hurricanes. Chicago sewer is another large contributor. The Chicago area’s sewage has been found to be the biggest single contributor to the “Dead Zone” that has emerged in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River – an area larger than the State of Connecticut noted Ann Alexander.
New regulations from the EPA are helping to clean up the mess we have all made. For every action there is a reaction we need to protect our waterways now before the damage is irreversible.