Maryland and Virginia Mostly on Track for Bay Pollution Reduction, Pennsylvania Falls Behind

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has released its assessment of how well Chesapeake Bay watershed states are doing with their goals to reduce pollution.

Under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the states have committed to implementing 60 percent of the practices necessary to restore the Bay by 2017, and 100 percent by 2025.

CBF’s assessment looked at the practices the states put in place in 2016, as well as the programs each state has designed to achieve long-term goals.

The foundation finds that Maryland and Virginia are largely on track to meet their milestone commitments, but Pennsylvania falls significantly short in its commitment to reduce nitrogen pollution.

According to the report, "Pennsylvania is significantly off track in reducing nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from agriculture as well as urban/suburban runoff."

Photo: Jane Thomas IAN/UMCES

Photo: Jane Thomas IAN/UMCES

The state committed to conduct inspections of 10 percent of its farms, checking that they have the required plans to prevent runoff pollution. But Pennsylvania didn't reach 10 percent, and their inspections are only to ensure each farm has a plan—not that the farm has implemented that plan.

In Maryland, the report finds that "efforts to reduce nitrogen pollution are slightly off track, while pollution reduction efforts for phosphorus and sediment are on track."

Maryland is currently implementing a tool to manage agricultural phosphorus, and match farms that have excess manure with farms who need it.

The report does express concern over Maryland's goals for septic system pollution. Even though technology exists to reduce nitrogen pollution from septic systems, the state has stopped requiring new systems to use the technology, as long as they're more than 1,000 feet from tidal waters.

As for Virginia, the report shows, "Due to its success with upgrading sewage treatment plants, overall, Virginia is on track for reducing nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and slightly off track for sediment."

For Virginia, the problem lies with urban and suburban runoff. CBF says while Virginia does require permits for these areas, the permit requirements aren't strict enough to protect from pollution,

CBF President William C. Baker does point out, the Bay is headed in the right direction, and we're already seeing some benefits from reduced pollution.

“Over time, the dead zone is getting smaller, Bay grasses are at record levels, and oysters are rebounding. The success all three states have had in reducing pollution from sewage treatment plants is important, but it also masks shortfalls in each of the states’ efforts to reduce pollution from agriculture and urban/suburban runoff. Continued federal and state investments will be key to success on the state level, and we know the payoff will be significant.”

Over the next year, the states and EPA will assess progress and develop new plans to achieve the 2025 goals.

Bay Bulletin