Treading water: Scant results seen despite millions spent in states along Mississippi River to cut nutrient pollution

America’s Midwest faces worsening trouble with undrinkable well water, recreational lakes choked with toxic algae and water treatment plants requiring budget-busting upgrades to remove pollution washing from farm fields and industries.

A government task force said in 2008 it would cut nitrate and phosphorus pollution 45 percent by 2015 — both to help the Gulf of Mexico, where the nutrients have created a sprawling dead zone in which wildlife cannot survive — and to protect the health and safety of Midwest waters.

Now 10 years later, the dead zone persists, the 45 percent goal has been shoved back 20 years and, although millions have been spent in nearly every state along the Mississippi River, it’s not clear any progress is being made, a four-month investigation by The Gazette found.

“Their goals for reduction in the dead zone at the Gulf are not being met — not even close,” said Kris Sigford, a retired water quality program director for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. “In many cases, we’re going the wrong way.”

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