A summer ritual that nobody celebrates has returned to the Texas coast: the dead zone.
This year’s area of oxygen-deprived Gulf of Mexico water off Louisiana and Texas is about average size, government and university scientists said Monday: about 5,052 square miles. That’s about the size of Connecticut.
A task force comprising the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and others keep tabs on the dead zone.
The water lacks oxygen, which marine creatures need, just like their landlocked cousins. The Mississippi and other rivers carry big loads of nutrients such as fertilzer from upstream farms and cities. The nutrients fuel algae growth. When the algae die and sink, their decomposition uses up the oxygen.
The result is big swaths of water without much marine life. Mobile animals go somewhere else to breathe.
It’s one of those environmental problems that scientists understand fairly thoroughly but nobody’s managed to solve.