New Orleans, LA
A US District Court ruled this week that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must set limits on pollution known as total maximum daily loads, or TMDLs, in Louisiana waters. Today’s action is the final chapter in a Clean Water Act lawsuit brought against EPA by Earthjustice on behalf of the Sierra Club and Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN). Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana issued the consent decree that requires EPA to set the pollution limits. Many waters throughout the state are unsafe for fishing, swimming, and boating. Today’s ruling should help to change that.
“The first step in cleaning up polluted lakes, rivers, and bayous is setting a limit on the pollution that enters them,” said Esther Boykin, attorney with Earthjustice. “At last, we are moving forward on restoring our waters.”
Earthjustice filed the lawsuit against EPA in 1996 for violating the Clean Water Act, which requires the agency to identify and establish pollution limits on waters within each state that are impaired by pollution.
Under today’s consent decree, TMDLs will be established basin-by-basin, and all TMDLs must be completed by March 31, 2011. According to the schedule for setting pollution limits, impaired waters in the Calcasieu and Ouachita River Basins are the first to have TMDLs – by May 31, 2002. More than 100 TMDLs have already been established for the Vermillion-Teche and Mermentau Basins pursuant to an earlier, partial consent decree.
A recent, unrelated EPA report underscored the great need for water cleanup in Louisiana by ranking the coastal waters – which receive other state waters flowing into them – as the worst in the nation. “The national report shows that the poor condition of our waters can only improve if pollution is reduced,” said Maurice Coman, chair of the Sierra Club’s Delta chapter. “We are thankful that we have finally turned a corner with a consent decree that has firm dates and required action for setting water pollution limits.”
“The consent decree marks a great day in Louisiana,” said Marylee Orr, Executive Director of LEAN. “How can we promote Louisiana as the ‘sportsman’s paradise’ when so many of our waters are unsafe for fishing, swimming, and boating,” said Orr.
“It is the people of Louisiana who have forced the EPA to do its job under the law. I encourage all citizens to get involved to make sure that EPA complies with the consent decree, which can be enforced. The quality of our environment and the health of our communities depend on clean water,” said Boykin.