Ce­cil County’s fu­ture de­pends on the Bay

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Dan Sch­neck­en­burger

— We live in a beau­ti­ful county with five rivers that ac­cess and flow into the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay. Our his­tory is tied into the wa­ter with com­merce, fish­eries and a thriv­ing mar­itime tourism in­dus­try.

The U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) has des­ig­nated the Bay as fail­ing in wa­ter qual­ity health due to pol­lu­tants such as ni­tro­gen and phos­pho­rous. Th­ese


nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring el­e­ments re­duce oxy­gen lev­els in the Bay, re­sult­ing in dead zones late in sum­mer. Our fish­eries, oys­ters and crabs have de­clined in num­bers over the years, and most peo­ple agree that re­duc­ing th­ese nu­tri­ents would in­crease oxy­gen lev­els in the wa­ter. This should in­crease pop­u­la­tion growth of th­ese fa­vorite seafood items.

The EPA has des­ig­nated all states in the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay water­shed to come up with pol­lu­tant source so­lu­tions. Mary­land of­fi­cials over the last sev­eral years have sin­gled out farm­ers (par­tic­u­larly poul­try op­er­a­tions), rural home­own­ers (en­hanced sep- tic sys­tems), and a stormwa­ter tax (i.e rain tax) to pay for our part of the cleanup. The prob­lem is that th­ese sources are not the main source of pol­lu­tants in the Bay.

The county and towns have worked with the Mary­land Depart­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment (MDE) to up­grade our waste­water treat­ment plants. Our new North­east River Ad­vanced Waste­water Treat­ment Plant at Seneca Point is re­mov­ing nu­tri­ents at his­toric lev­els, due to our in­vest­ment in mem­brane tech­nol­ogy. Ris­ing Sun, Elkton and Per­ryville all have en­hanced nu­tri­ent re­moval plants run­ning in their towns. And we are tak­ing fail­ing sep­tic sys­tems off­line in the Charlestown area to stop this pol­lu­tion source. Our DPW works with com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial landown­ers to re­duce nu­tri­ent runoff to the Bay. Ce­cil County is do­ing its part for sure.

But Mary­land has ig­nored the big­gest source of pol­lu­tion to the Bay, which comes in through the Susque­hanna River.

Close to 50 per­cent of the fresh wa­ter com­ing into the Bay en­ters through the Susque­hanna River and the Conowingo Dam. The dam has stopped mil­lions of tons of sed­i­ment and at­tached phos­pho­rous from en­ter­ing the Bay, but it is now at ca­pac­ity. Even small flood­ing events now scour sed­i­ments into the Bay, turn­ing the wa­ter brown, and set­tling at the Susque­hanna Flats, a large breed­ing ground for rock­fish. The county works with the Clean Ch­e­sa­peake Coali­tion, a con­sor­tium of coun­ties that ad­vo­cate for in­clud­ing the pol­lu­tion in the Susque­hanna River and the sed­i­ment be­hind the dam in the to­tal max­i­mum daily load cal­cu­la­tion on how to clean up the Bay. Al­though it would seem ob­vi­ous to us that this is the big­gest source of the pol­lu­tants, we con­tinue to fight with en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists based in An­napo­lis who want to ig­nore this sit­u­a­tion.

Should we pay for other states pol­lu­tion of the Bay?

The an­swer is an em­phatic no, and our county and the Clean Ch­e­sa­peake Coali­tion will con­tinue to work to hold Penn­syl­va­nia and New York cul­pa­ble for their large and sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion of pol­lu­tants to the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

We all want the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay to be clean and thriv­ing for many years to come. Our fu­ture de­pends on it.

Dan Sch­neck­en­burger is a Ce­cil County Coun­cil­man.

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