NEW ORLEANS - A huge, lifeless band of water off the Louisiana coast is growing despite years of promises by a federal task force to reduce it.
The "dead zone" forms every spring at the mouth of the Mississippi River and extends as far as Texas, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported Sunday.
Waste water and fertilizer runoff from the Mississippi chokes off oxygen needed by fish and other marine life. A boom in corn production for ethanol means more farming and fertilizer, leading marine experts to predict a huge zone this year.
Federal officials and scientists are to meet about the zone this week in New Orleans. But more than five years after that group pledged to reduce the zone to a quarter of its size by 2015, the zone continues to grow.
Researchers fear the zone will permanently change the Gulf, from the bottom-dwelling organisms that anchor it all the way up to prized fish. "The recovery from that may be impossible," said Don Scavia, a scientist who has studied the zone since 2000.
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