English: Great Seal of the state of Wisconsin
English: Great Seal of the state of Wisconsin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The longterm goal is cleaner water, fewer algae blooms  and weeds to improve the habitat for fish and other freshwater aquatic life that live in lakes, streams and rivers in Wisconsin.

The idea is to allow wastewater treatment plants, paper mills or dairies with pollution discharge permits to avoid or reduce pollution control costs, in favor of  developing partnerships within watersheds that reduce the flow of phosphorous.  Partnerships may include grants for farmers to change their field and husbandry practices and help communities control runoff from streets.  Regulations also allow water pollution trading among the many watersheds in Wisconsin, which may provide more flexibility to address the pollution issue.

Phosphorous is a nutrient in fertilizer and can be found in suburban yards, automatic dishwasher detergents and manure from farm fields. It causes algae blooms and increases weeds in streams, lakes and rivers.

Algal bloom on the dam

Algal bloom on the dam (Photo credit: MCG Images 2)

The new program to reduce runoff  is another step in the effort to control phosphorous. Wisconsin restricted the sale of fertilizer containing phosphorous in April 2010 and limited the phosphorous level in dishwasher detergents.

In Wisconsin, 172 waterways are polluted due to high levels of phosphorous which reduces their value and recreational use, according to the Department of Natural Resources. The latest phosphorous regulations were approved by Gov. Jim Doyle before he left office but needed EPA approval to move ahead.  Governor Walker tried to shelve the regulation early in 2011, saying Wisconsin’s rule couldn’t be stricter than surrounding states. 

Environmentalists and pro-lakes advocates argued that states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota had a greater interest in controlling phosphorous then states such as Illinois and Indiana with fewer lakes. Toni Herkert, policy maker at the Wisconsin Lakes Association, said law makers in farming and lake areas saw the regulations as a chance to take on the problems of algae blooms and weedy lakes.  In spring of 2011, legislators allowed the regulations to pass.

 A state analysis is underway on the economic impact of phosphorous reduction in bodies of water. The DNR expects the report will show that the benefits of cleaner water on property values will out strip the capital costs of pollution control.

“Using this rule, communities and businesses can work together to make more meaningful phosphorous reduction,” said DNR secretary Cathy Stepp.

Advertisements