Ag groups request new nutrient criteria

IFB, others ask IEPA to set aside proposed water nutrient standards, seek data collection.

By Kay Shipman

Illinois Farm Bureau and three agricultural organizations asked the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to not accept a science advisory committee’s water nutrient standards but to work with them and develop “meaningful nutrient criteria” in recently submitted written comments.

IEPA accepted comments on recommended numeric nutrient criteria standards for surface water. Those recommended standards were developed by a state Nutrient Science Advisory Committee.

IEPA has struggled to develop state-specific numeric water standards since early 2000. In fact, the Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research (C-FAR) spent three years and $1.7 million on research to develop water nutrient standards, but complex factors prevented the development of statewide standards.

In their comments, the ag organizations asked IEPA not to accept the advisory committee’s recommendations; however, the groups acknowledged the committee’s work and efforts to improve the process to develop criteria.

The ag organizations pointed out the advisory committee’s effort “mirrors the difficulty encountered years ago” by C-FAR and “the limitation of available data, difficulty in determining the role of nutrients and the significant influence of other factors that impact water quality.”

IFB, Illinois Pork Producers Association, Illinois Corn Growers Association and the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association worked as a coalition “to weigh in with technical comments to represent agriculture,” said Lauren Lurkins, IFB director of natural and environmental resources. “This was an opportunity for stakeholders to provide IEPA with technical information upon which it can base its decision whether or not to move forward with rulemaking before the Illinois Pollution Control Board.”

The Illinois Legislative Agricultural Roundtable echoed the ag coalition’s recommendation in a letter submitted to IEPA.

In addition, agriculture groups worked with wastewater treatment entities and the state’s business communities to share perspectives.