EPA: Mary­land on track to meet 2017 Bay pol­lu­tion goals

Record Observer - - News - By JOSH BOLLINGER jbollinger@star­dem.com

EAS­TON — The U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency re­cently re­leased its eval­u­a­tions of Ch­e­sa­peake Bay ju­ris­dic­tions’ restora­tion ef­forts, and Mary­land is on track to meet all its 2017 tar­get goals.

The EPA eval­u­ated restora­tion ef­forts of the six Bay states — Mary­land, Vir­ginia, Delaware, New York, Penn­syl­va­nia, West Vir­ginia — and the District of Columbia from 2014 to 2015 to de­ter­mine whether the ju­ris­dic­tions will meet their mid­point 2017 goals.

The Ch­e­sa­peake Bay To­tal Max­i­mum Daily Load goals aim to re­duce pol­lu­tion to the Bay, with a dead­line to im­ple­ment what was deemed nec­es­sary to re­store the Bay by 2025. Sixty per­cent of the pol­lu­tion re­duc­tion mea­sures need to be in place by 2017.

“While we are see­ing solid progress across ev­ery sec­tor, we also rec­og­nize that not all sec­tors in each of the ju­ris­dic­tions are where they need to be in or­der to meet Bay wa­ter qual­ity goals,” said EPA Re­gional Ad­min­is­tra­tor Shawn M. Garvin.

The TMDL aims to re­duce phos­pho­rus, ni­tro­gen and sed­i­ment pol­lu­tion across dif­fer­ent sec­tors, in­clud­ing agri­cul­ture, waste­water, ur­ban runoff, sep­tic and for­rest cov­er­age.

EPA’s eval­u­a­tion in­di­cates it is un­likely ju­ris­dic­tions, col­lec­tively, will meet the 60 per­cent thresh­old for re­duc­ing ni­tro­gen by 2017, but they are col­lec­tively on track to meet lo­cal re­duc­tions for phos­pho­rus and sed­i­ment.

Mary­land, how­ever, is on track to meet all its statewide 2017 tar­gets, ac­cord­ing to the EPA. The state fell short of meet­ing its 2015 goal for ni­tro­gen in all source sec­tors ex­cept for waste­water, but it achieved its statewide 2015 tar­get for phos­pho­rus and sed­i­ment.

The EPA stated in its eval­u­a­tion of Mary­land’s 2014 to 2015 mile­stones that the state has made enough progress in the agri­cul­ture and waste­water sec­tors to en­sure im­ple­men­ta­tion is oc­cur­ring, “even though all of the mile­stone com­mit­ments were not achieved.” Pro­jected re­duc­tions for ni­tro­gen in the ur­ban and sub­ur­ban stormwa­ter sec­tor are not on track, ac­cord­ing to the EPA’s eval­u­a­tion.

The agri­cul­ture sec­tor, how­ever, is on track to sur­pass each of the sec­tor’s ni­tro­gen, phos­pho­rus and sed­i­ment goals by 2017, ac­cord­ing to the EPA.

Ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, Mary­land farm­ers con­tinue to plant record cover crop acreage, “which is one of the most cost-ef­fec­tive ways to keep ni­tro­gen out of ground wa­ter and the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.”

Also, Mary­land in­vested $31.2 mil­lion in grants last year for farm­ers to in­stall 2,440 con­ser­va­tion projects, which in­cludes cover crops, which con­trol soil ero­sion and re­duce nu­tri­ent runoff, the MDA stated.

The EPA rec­og­nized the state’s Phos­pho­rus Man­age­ment Tool and Mary­land Agri­cul­ture Phos­pho­rus Ini­tia­tive as one of Mary­land agri­cul­ture’s strengths in meet­ing its sec­tor goals.

The Phos­pho­rus Man­age­ment Tool aims to re­duce phos­pho­rus pol­lu­tion — mainly look­ing at phos­pho­rus-rich chicken and dairy ma­nure used as crop fer­til­izer — on the farm fields where phos­pho­rus pol­lu­tion is cal­cu­lated to be the worst in an ef­fort to re­duce phos­pho­rus runoff and im­prove the health of Bay wa­ter­ways.

“Last year alone, Mary­land farm­ers moved 167,237 tons of ma­nure away from farm fields with high soil phos­pho­rus lev­els — a 40 per­cent in­crease over last year’s trans­port fig­ures,” the MDA stated. “And since 2014, the state has is­sued $3.7 mil­lion in grants through the An­i­mal Waste Tech­nol­ogy Fund to sup­port new on­farm ma­nure man­age­ment tech­nolo­gies.”

The EPA stated in its Mary­land eval­u­a­tion that the agency rec­og­nizes Mar yland is work­ing with Ex­elon on a $3.5 mil­lion en­hanced mon­i­tor­ing and mod­el­ing study. Ex­elon runs the Conowingo Dam, which is the last dam along the Susque­hanna River that runs through New York and Penn­syl­va­nia be­fore the river reaches the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

The dam has lost its sed­i­ment­trap­ping ca­pac­ity, ac­cord­ing to a U.S. Army Corps of Engi­neers study, and dur­ing large storm events, the sed­i­ment and nu­tri­ents as­so­ci­ated with it scour over the dam and into the Up­per Ch­e­sa­peake Bay. The study also in­di­cates, how­ever, that nu­tri­ents re­leased into the wa­ter way up­stream of the Conowingo Dam are of the most con­cern, rather than the dam it­self.

“EPA rec­om­mends Mary­land con­tin­ues with these ef­forts and, along with the Susque­hanna River states, be­gins to de­velop a strat­egy to fur­ther re­duce nu­tri­ent and sed­i­ment loads to the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay given that a greater por­tion of pol­lu­tants than pre­vi­ously an­tic­i­pated is pass­ing through the Conowingo Dam and into the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay as a re­sult of the reser­voirs fill­ing up and los­ing their trap­ping ca­pac­ity,” the EPA stated in its eval­u­a­tion.

Some Mary­land law­mak­ers and of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing MDA Sec­re­tary Joe Barten­felder in a re­cent in­ter­view with The Star Demo­crat, have pointed to Penn­syl­va­nia and are urg­ing the state to pick up the pace in meet­ing its pol­lu­tion re­duc­tion goals.

The EPA states Penn­syl­va­nia reached its statewide 2015 tar­get for phos­pho­rus but not for ni­tro­gen and sed­i­ment. Penn­syl­va­nia is not on tar­get to reach 2017 goals for the agri­cul­ture and ur­ban and sub­ur­ban stormwa­ter sec­tor for all pol­lu­tants, ac­cord­ing to the EPA.

Penn­syl­va­nia of­fi­cials have in­di­cated the state in­tends to ramp up its ef­forts in an ef­fort to be on track to meet its 2025 goals.

Ac­cord­ing to the EPA’s mile­stone re­view, Penn­syl­va­nia fell short of de­vel­op­ing and im­ple­ment­ing a track­ing and re­port­ing sys­tem for agri­cul­ture best man­age­ment prac­tices in 2015, and it did not in­crease im­ple­men­ta­tion of pri­or­ity prac­tices to im­prove wa­ter qual­ity, in­clud­ing grass buf­fers, an­i­mal waste man­age­ment and nu­tri­ent man­age­ment.

“Penn­syl­va­nia will need to sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease its level of ef­fort to re­duce nu­tri­ents and sed­i­ment to meet its 2025 Bay TMDL goals, es­pe­cially given that the gap con­tin­ues to grow as a re­sult of growth in var­i­ous sec­tors,” the EPA stated in its re­view.

The EPA may de­velop Penn­syl­va­nia-spe­cific goals to help it get back on track to meet its 2025 Bay TMDL com­mit­ments and goals, the eval­u­a­tion states.

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PHOTO BY JOSH BOLLINGER

Boaters flood Fair­lee Creek off Mears Great Oak Land­ing on Satur­day, June 25. In a re­cent eval­u­a­tion, the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency stated that Mary­land is on track to reach its 2017 To­tal Max­i­mum Daily Load goals to re­duc­ing pol­lu­tion to the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

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