Jeremy Jackson, Professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, described the mouth of the Mississippi as "the bowl of the toilet of North America" during a speech at the California Academy of Sciences in September.

He explained that the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was only one of many environmental disasters already occurring.

"You can't really understand this oil spill or put it in perspective unless you know the history of the northern Gulf of Mexico, which is one of the most depressing stories in American environmental history," he said.

So much fertilizer has seeped into the Mississippi river that it has created a dead zone -- a large area in the Gulf of Mexico with no oxygen.

"All of this phosphorus and nitrogen, in incredible, mind-boggling qualities, comes down the river and gets dumped into the Gulf of Mexico," Jackson said.

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