The recent Dead Zone announcement from Louisiana researchers revealed that EPA failed to meet a major goal it set in 2001 to reduce Mississippi River water pollution that is destroying aquatic life in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Louisiana University Marine Consortium and Louisiana State University issued a statement last week in which it declared that this year’s Dead Zone – the area at the mouth of the Mississippi River which receives a significant quantity of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from upstream as far north as Minnesota – measures approximately 6,474 square miles, an area the size of Connecticut plus Rhode Island.

“In 2001, state and federal bureaucrats set a goal of reducing the size of the Dead Zone to 1,950 square miles by 2015,” said Matt Rota, Senior Policy Director for the Gulf Restoration Network. “Well here we are at 2015, and we are over three times that goal.”

In preparation for not meeting their goal, EPA announced in February that it would simply move the goal posts, pushing the deadline to 2035. This announcement did not include any specific new strategies for reaching the target.

Members of the Mississippi River Collaborative have been warning EPA for nearly a decade that its strategy to rely upon states to develop and enforce pollution protections is not working. In 2012, the groups filed a lawsuit against EPA for its refusal to set and enforce numeric standards for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution as part of its obligation under the Clean Water Act. EPA continues to fight the litigation.