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Bay Blog: TMDL

Oct
06
2014

Bay Foundation estimates economic benefits of a restored Chesapeake

A new report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) indicates the economic benefits of a restored Chesapeake Bay could total $130 billion each year, as the watershed’s “pollution diet” creates clean air and water, protects properties from floods and fuels local restaurant and recreation industries.

Image courtesy olorak/Flickr

The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which the Annapolis-based nonprofit calls the Clean Water Blueprint, was established in 2010 to reduce pollution loads across the watershed. It limits the amount of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment that can enter rivers and streams to improve water quality. Jurisdictions use Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) to put these limits in place.

According to the report, which was produced by ecological economist Spencer Phillips and CBF Senior Scientist Beth McGee, the annual value of the natural benefits provided by a “pre-Blueprint” Bay is an estimated $107 billion. Once the TMDL is put in place and its benefits are realized, this amount would increase 21 percent to $129.7 billion. While Virginia is set to benefit most from a restored Bay—increasing its annual earnings by $8.3 billion—other watershed states would also benefit: Pennsylvania would see an earnings increase of $6.1 billion, Maryland $4.6 billion, New York $1.9 billion, West Virginia $1.3 billion and Delaware $205 million.

“The conclusion is clear: the region’s environmental and economic health will improve when we fully implement the [Clean Water] Blueprint,” said Phillips in a media release. “The cleanup plan was designed with the understanding that all people and communities in the watershed can contribute to making the Bay cleaner, and that everyone will benefit when pollution is reduced. Our analysis confirms this.”

While its report doesn’t address the annual watershed-wide cost of restoration, CBF estimates this figure is in the range of $5 billion.

Learn more.

Note: This blog post was written by a staff-member of the Chesapeake Bay Program.



Jun
26
2014

Evaluation shows Bay Program partners are making progress in Chesapeake cleanup

According to evaluations released this week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Chesapeake Bay Program partners are collectively on track to meet the phosphorous and sediment reduction commitments outlined in the Bay’s “pollution diet,” or Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). Further reductions in nitrogen, however, will be needed if partners are to meet all of their upcoming pollution-reducing goals.

Every two years, federal agencies and the watershed jurisdictions—which include Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia—report on the progress made toward the pollution-reducing “milestones” outlined in their Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs). These WIPs describe how each jurisdiction will reduce the nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment pollution entering rivers and streams, and are included as commitments in the partnership’s recently signed Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. Jurisdictions have set a goal to have all essential pollution-reducing practices in place by 2025 in an effort to meet water quality standards in the watershed.

Nutrient and sediment pollution are behind some of the Bay’s biggest health problems. Excess nitrogen and phosphorous fuel the growth of harmful algae blooms, which result in low-oxygen dead zones that suffocate marine life. Suspended sediment blocks sunlight from reaching underwater plants and suffocates shellfish. But “best management practices” (or BMPs) like upgraded wastewater treatment technologies, improved manure management and enhanced stormwater management can help towns, cities and states lower the amount of pollution flowing into local waters.

The EPA will continue to oversee the watershed jurisdictions’ pollution-reducing efforts, and will offer further attention to some pollution sectors—including wastewater in Delaware and New York; agricultural runoff in Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia; and urban and suburban runoff in Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia—to ensure partners remain on track to meet their 2017 targets.

Learn more.



Dec
31
2013

Letter from Leadership: What can I do for the Chesapeake Bay?

People often feel helpless when confronting the environmental concerns that face us today. They want to know, in simple and straightforward terms, what they can do to help. In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the answer lies in our work to reduce the flow of nutrients and sediment into our waterways.

While we have made great strides in upgrading nutrient-removal technology at wastewater treatment plants, controlling power plant and automobile exhaust emissions, and putting conservation practices in place on area farms, we have not made as much progress in reducing stormwater runoff from homes and businesses. Rainfall continues to run across rooftops, driveways and lawns, picking up pollutants before it enters storm drains, rivers and streams. And we continue to look for ways to encourage homeowners to reduce their stormwater discharges.

Image courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources/Flickr

Environmental regulations have not focused on runoff from homes because these pollution sources are too small, diffuse and numerous to manage effectively and efficiently. But the Chesapeake Bay Program is developing a system that will give homeowners credit for reducing their runoff and helping their communities meet the goals of the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), or Bay “pollution diet.” More than 30 stakeholders worked through the Chesapeake Stormwater Network to develop this crediting program, which will respond to the needs of both homeowners and government agencies and provide an accurate mechanism for verifying residential best management practices.

Rain barrels, rain gardens and permeable pavement are just some of the tools that can help a homeowner manage runoff and add color and character to his property. But it is important for us to ensure that these practices are installed correctly to reduce pollution over time. So a guide is in production that will show homeowners how to design, construct and maintain different practices, and an online tool will allow them to add their practices to a website, where the data will be checked and pollution reductions will be calculated.

Training and certification programs are being planned. Smart phone apps are being developed. And this initiative appears to be catching on among homeowners and in communities across the watershed, where people see it as an opportunity to improve their neighborhood, increase their property values and make a positive impact on their local environment and the water quality of the Bay. 

Note: The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect U.S. EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Nick DiPasquale's avatar
About Nick DiPasquale - Nick has nearly 30 years of public policy and environmental management experience in both the public and private sectors. He previously served as Deputy Secretary in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Director of the Environmental Management Center for the Brandywine Conservancy in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and as Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.



Oct
31
2013

Letter from Leadership: Lag-times call for patience in awaiting a restored Bay

How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?
William Shakespeare, Othello, Act II, Scene 3

Between fast food restaurants and speed-of-light cell phones, we live in a culture of instant gratification. But the environment around us doesn’t operate that way. Instead, it is slow to respond to changes—like the upsets or imbalances created by human activity.

Scientific evidence shows that many of the pollution-reducing practices we are placing on the ground now may take years to show visible improvements in water quality. One reason? Pollutants can be persistent. French and Canadian researchers, for instance, tracked the movement of fertilizer through a plot of land over the course of three decades. While more than half of the fertilizer applied to the land in 1982 was absorbed by agricultural crops like wheat and sugar beet, 12 to 15 percent remained in the soil. The researchers predicted it would take an additional 50 years before the fertilizer fully disappeared from the environment.

Much of the farmland in the Chesapeake Bay watershed sits over groundwater, now contaminated with high levels of nitrates following years of fertilizer applications above ground. Work by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has shown that it will take a decade for this nitrogen-laden groundwater to flow into rivers, streams and the Bay. On the Delmarva Peninsula, where deeper, sandy aquifers underlie the Coastal Plain, this so-called “lag-time” could take 20 to 40 years.

So what implications could lag-times have for the Bay restoration effort? Last year, the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) released a report about the lag-time phenomenon. The team of experts concluded that lag-times will affect public perception of our progress toward meeting the pollution diet set forth by the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).

The TMDL requires the six Bay states and the District of Columbia to implement their proposed pollution-reduction measures by 2025. There may be an expectation on the part of the general public and our elected officials that once these measures are fully implemented, the Bay will have met its water quality goals. But now we know that it may take some time before we can make that claim. As 2025 approaches, we must remind the public that lag-times exist and ask for their patience in seeing a healthy Bay. Because through patience—and vigilance—the Bay will be restored. 

Note: The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect U.S. EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Nick DiPasquale's avatar
About Nick DiPasquale - Nick has nearly 30 years of public policy and environmental management experience in both the public and private sectors. He previously served as Deputy Secretary in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Director of the Environmental Management Center for the Brandywine Conservancy in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and as Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.



Sep
16
2013

Court upholds Chesapeake Bay pollution diet

A federal judge ruled last week that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can set pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay, upholding the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) that has guided water quality restoration efforts across the region since it was issued in 2010.

The TMDL, also known as the Bay “pollution diet,” set limits on the amount of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment allowed to run into the Bay each year. It required the seven Bay jurisdictions to write Watershed Implementation Plans, which make clear the steps that each will take to reduce pollution from urban, suburban and agricultural runoff, wastewater treatment plants and other sources. Pollution-reducing practices are being put in place across the watershed, and are expected to help combat the excess nutrients and sediment plaguing the nation’s largest estuary.

In 2011, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau—who were soon joined by the Fertilizer Institute and a number of agricultural trade associations—filed suit against the EPA, claiming the federal agency lacked the authority to issue the so-called “arbitrary” and “capricious” TMDL. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and several local and national partners intervened in the lawsuit to protect the cleanup. Pennsylvania Federal Judge Sylvia Rambo has ruled the plaintiffs failed to prove their case.

According to Rambo’s ruling, the Clean Water Act grants the EPA the authority to set pollution limits on impaired waters: “The [Clean Water Act] is an all-encompassing and comprehensive statute that envisions a strong federal role for ensuring pollution reduction… Considering the numerous complexities of regulating an interstate water body, EPA’s role is critical.”

An EPA spokesperson called the ruling “a victory for the 17 million people in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”

More than 47,000 TMDLs have been issued for rivers, streams and other water bodies throughout the United States, but the Bay TMDL is the largest and most complex. Learn more on the EPA’s TMDL website.



Jun
01
2012

EPA releases evaluations of states’ final Chesapeake Bay cleanup plans

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released its evaluations of the final Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. The evaluations are available online at the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL website.

Each state and the District of Columbia developed its own cleanup plan, in collaboration with local governments and conservation districts. The plans outline steps each jurisdiction will take toward restoring the thousands of streams and rivers that make up the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“The Phase II WIPs represent a transition from planning to implementing the necessary practices at the local level,” said EPA mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin.

Through the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership, state and federal officials have committed to having all of the needed pollution control measures in place to fully restore the Bay no later than 2025.



May
04
2012

Nutrient credit trading could cut cost of cleaning up Chesapeake Bay, according to new study

Nutrient credit trading could significantly trim the cost of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, according to a new study released by the Chesapeake Bay Commission.

Nutrient credit trading is a system that enables one pollution source to meet its pollution reduction goals by purchasing those reductions from another source.

The economic analysis showed that nutrient credit trading could save 20 percent to as much as 80 percent of costs to meet pollution reduction goals called for in the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, the federal “pollution diet” to clean up the Bay. State and local governments must reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from farms, wastewater treatment plants, stormwater systems and other sources to meet these goals by 2025.

The study recommends that governments define trading rules and protocols, provide information and technical assistance, and ensure compliance and enforcement to maximize cost benefits and guarantee trading programs actually deliver pollution reductions.

To date, four Chesapeake Bay watershed states – Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia – have initiated water quality trading programs.

Visit the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s website to learn more about the study and download the full analysis.



Apr
04
2012

States, D.C. submit final Chesapeake Bay cleanup plans to federal government

Six of the seven Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions – Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia – have submitted their final cleanup plans as part of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, a “pollution diet” that aims to put in place all restoration measures needed for a clean Bay by 2025.

The final cleanup plans, officially known as Phase 2 Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs), were submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last Friday. New York submitted its draft plan, and is working with the EPA to finalize that plan.

The cleanup plans were developed by each individual state and the District, working closely with counties, municipalities and other local partners. The cleanup plans identify specific restoration measures each jurisdiction will take to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution to the Bay and its local rivers.

According to the guidelines set in the TMDL, at least 60 percent of necessary pollution reductions must be achieved by 2017. Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to putting all needed pollution control measures in place no later than 2025.

Visit the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL website to review and learn more about the cleanup plans.



Feb
17
2012

States, D.C. generally on track to meet Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals, according to EPA

Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia are generally on track to meet pollution reduction goals for the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers by 2025, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) evaluations of the jurisdictions' cleanup plans.

The six Bay states and the District of Columbia recently submitted their Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) and their 2012-2013 pollution reduction milestones. These plans lay out how each jurisdiction will meet pollution reduction goals set by the EPA in the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.

Overall, the jurisdictions built considerably upon their Phase I plans, according to the EPA. The Phase II plans provide more specific cleanup strategies and detail restoration actions on a local level.

EPA evaluations and feedback on each jurisdiction’s cleanup plan are available on the Chesapeake Bay TMDL website. The EPA is still reviewing New York’s plan, which was submitted after the deadline.

The EPA will continue to work with the jurisdictions between now and March 30, when the final Phase II WIPs are due.



May
04
2011

National Academy of Sciences releases Chesapeake Bay Program evaluation

The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has released a pilot study that contains science-based conclusions and recommendations to help the Chesapeake Bay Program evaluate its efforts to achieve nutrient reduction goals and clean up the Bay.

The study, “Achieving Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Goals in the Chesapeake Bay: An Evaluation of Program Strategies and Implementation,” validates and provides constructive feedback on the work the Bay Program has undertaken during the last 18 months to improve accountability.

“While supporting the program’s current efforts, the report also points out some critical challenges to consider in making decisions moving forward,” said Shawn M. Garvin, EPA regional administrator and chair of the Bay Program’s Principals' Staff Committee.

The NAS study results reinforce the partnership’s current work, including the Chesapeake Bay “pollution diet,” or TMDL; the Bay jurisdictions’ Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs); and two-year milestones. NAS recognized the Bay watershed’s complexity and the equally intricate tracking systems needed to accurately report on restoration progress, as well as the fact that the Bay Program is in the process of better integrating its voluntary and regulatory work.

The study also provides suggestions for strengthening processes for tracking and accounting of best management practices (BMPs); assessing two-year milestones; adaptive management; and implementation strategies.

“As the states continue to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, we must regularly review and take steps to improve the management of our resources to achieve the most cost-effective results for our citizens and the Bay," said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert M. Summers. “We believe a healthy Chesapeake Bay is finally within our sights, and we look forward to working with our partners to determine how the Academy's recommendations can help.”

Within 90 days, the Bay Program will provide a written response to all of the study’s recommendations.

The Bay Program solicited this self-evaluation in 2009 after the Chesapeake Executive Council requested at its 2008 annual meeting that a nationally recognized, independent science organization evaluate the program’s efforts to accelerate implementation of nutrient reduction goals to restore the Bay.

The evaluation was jointly funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Chesapeake Bay Program, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

For more information, including a link to a "report in brief," visit the National Academies website. You can also view the full study.



Apr
11
2011

West Virginia to help fund pollution-reducing wastewater treatment upgrades

West Virginia will invest $6 million annually for 30 years toward wastewater treatment plant upgrades that will reduce nutrient pollution to the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.

The money, which will come from excess state lottery funds, will fund about $85 million in bonds that will help pay for upgrades. The funding will cover about 40 percent of the expected cost for the upgrades.

The upgrades will help West Virginia meet new pollution-reduction goals that are part of the federal pollution diet for the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. West Virginia has 13 wastewater facilities that need to be upgraded to meet nutrient limits.

Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed the bill into law on April 6.



Dec
30
2010

EPA Establishes Chesapeake Bay "Pollution Diet"

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established a final “pollution diet” to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its streams, creeks and rivers.

The pollution diet, formally called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), spells out the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that needs to be reduced to bring the Bay back to health. The TMDL calls for a 25 percent reduction in nitrogen, 24 percent reduction in phosphorus and 20 percent reduction in sediment.

The TMDL is driven primarily by detailed plans created by the six Bay states and the District of Columbia to put all needed pollution controls in place by 2025, with at least 60 percent of the actions completed by 2017. Additionally, the EPA involved stakeholder groups and the public in TMDL development during the past two years.

“In the past two years we have made huge strides that will yield real results for millions of people who rely on the Bay for their livelihood and way of life,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Now we begin the hard work of implementing this pollution diet and building on the last two years.”

The EPA worked closely with the seven Bay jurisdictions during the past several months to address deficiencies in their draft plans. The final plans were improved enough that the EPA was able to reduce and remove most “backstops” that were in the draft TMDL.

Significant improvements in jurisdiction plans include:

  • Committing to more stringent nitrogen and phosphorus limits at wastewater treatment plants, including on the James River in Virginia (Virginia, New York, Delaware)
  • Pursuing state legislation to fund wastewater treatment plant upgrades, urban stormwater management and agricultural programs (Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia)
  • Implementing a progressive stormwater permit to reduce pollution (District of Columbia)
  • Dramatically increasing enforcement and compliance of state requirements for agriculture (Pennsylvania)
  • Committing state funding to develop and implement state-of-the-art-technologies for converting animal manure to energy for farms (Pennsylvania)
  • Considering implementation of mandatory programs for agriculture by 2013 if pollution reductions fall behind schedule (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, New York)

The final TMDL still includes some backstops for jurisdictions that did not meet the EPA’s expectations or their pollution allocations. These include the wastewater sector in New York, the urban stormwater sector in Pennsylvania and the agriculture sector in West Virginia. Additionally, the EPA will keep a close eye on Pennsylvania agriculture, Virginia and West Virginia urban stormwater, and Pennsylvania and West Virginia wastewater.

The EPA will regularly oversee each of the jurisdictions’ programs to make sure they implement pollution control plans and remain on schedule for meeting goals and milestones. Each jurisdiction will be accountable for results along the way.

The Chesapeake Bay TMDL was prompted by insufficient progress in restoring the Bay, despite extensive restoration efforts that have taken place during the past 25 years. The TMDL is required under federal law and responds to consent decrees in Virginia and the District of Columbia dating back to the late 1990s.

The full TMDL, as well as evaluations of the state plans and EPA backstops and contingencies, can be found at www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl.



Sep
28
2010

Anacostia River to go on trash diet

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along with the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia have announced a new Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) or “pollution diet” for trash in the impaired Anacostia River as directed by the federal Clean Water Act. The TMDL will require the capture or removal of more than 600 tons of trash from the Anacostia watershed each year, making the Anacostia the first interstate river in the country with a Clean Water Act limit on trash.

Officials believe limiting the amount of trash in the Anacostia watershed will be a step in the right direction toward a “fishable and swimmable” Anacostia River by the year 2032. Every year, hundreds of tons of trash and debris make their way to the Anacostia River either through illegal dumping or stormwater runoff carrying it into the river. This trash then flows downstream to the Potomac River and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.

"This precedent-setting 'trash TMDL' is a multi-regional commitment to finally attack the trash traveling through our storm drain systems," said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Shari T. Wilson. "Trash has for too long been a problem in our waterways and communities – reducing trash and stormwater runoff is key to restoring the Anacostia River, the Potomac River and the Bay."

Anacostia River Trash

The Anacostia River was placed on both Maryland and the District’s impaired waters lists in 2006 due to this excessive amount of trash pollution.

The new pollution diet will also contribute to the five-year-old Trash-Free Potomac Watershed initiative, which the Alice Ferguson Foundation celebrated by holding its fifth annual Potomac Watershed Trash Summit this week. The summit included a ceremonial signing of the Potomac Watershed Trash Treaty as well as roundtables and exhibits on enforcement, composting, public education and regulation.

The initiative is working to have a trash-free Potomac by the year 2013, with a campaign using public education and market-based approaches, including the District’s 5-cent tax on plastic bags. 

Trash in our rivers is not only unappealing from an aesthetic standpoint, making our natural areas more difficult to enjoy, but it can also cause serious damage to wildlife and habitats. The health of our local waterways, including the reduction of trash flowing to them, is vital to the health and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. The Bay cannot be fully restored if its tributaries are unhealthy and plagued by pollution.

A TMDL, as required by the Clean Water Act, establishes the amount of a given pollutant that a water body can take without compromising water quality standards. The state and District’s new stormwater regulations will work in coordination with the TMDL to reduce the amount of trash entering the Anacostia River.



Jul
01
2010

EPA Proposes Draft Pollution Limits to Restore Chesapeake Bay and Local Waterways

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed draft nitrogen and phosphorus limits, called allocations, as part of a “pollution diet” the agency is developing to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its local streams, creeks and rivers.

The watershed-wide draft limits of 187.4 million pounds of nitrogen and 12.5 million pounds of phosphorus are divided among the six watershed states and the District of Columbia, as well as the major river basins. The draft limits were determined using the best peer-reviewed science and through extensive collaboration between the EPA and the seven Bay jurisdictions.

Bay jurisdictions are expected to use the draft allocations as the basis for completing their Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs), which detail how they will further divide the limits among different sources of pollution and achieve the required reductions. Jurisdictions must provide the first drafts of their WIPs to the EPA by September 1, and final Phase 1 WIPs are due November 29.

“While we all recognize that every jurisdiction within the watershed will have to make very difficult choices to reduce pollution, we also recognize that we must collectively accelerate our efforts if we are going to restore this national treasure as part of our legacy for future generations,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin.

The EPA expects the Bay jurisdictions to have all practices in place to meet their established pollution limits by 2025, with 60 percent of the effort completed by 2017. Progress will be measured using two-year milestones, or short-term goals. The EPA may apply consequences for inadequate plans or failing to meet the milestones.

The EPA will issue a draft Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) – the “pollution diet” – on September 24, with a 45-day public comment period immediately following. The final Bay TMDL will be established by December 31.

In addition to these draft allocations, the EPA is committing to reduce the amount of airborne nitrogen that falls on the Bay’s tidal waters to 15.7 million pounds per year. This will be achieved through federal air regulations that will be implemented over the coming years.

The EPA will assign draft allocations for sediment on August 15.

For more information about the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, visit www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl.



Jul
01
2010

EPA proposes draft sediment limits to restore Chesapeake Bay and local waterways

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed draft sediment limits as part of a “pollution diet” the agency is developing to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its local streams, creeks and rivers.

The watershed-wide draft limit of 6.1-6.7 billion pounds of sediment per year is divided among the six watershed states and the District of Columbia, as well as the major river basins. In 2009, an estimated 8.09 billion pounds of sediment flowed to and clouded the waters of the Bay and its tributaries. 

Excess sediment suspended in the water is one of the leading causes of the Chesapeake Bay's poor health. The culprits are the tiny clay- and silt-sized fractions of sediment. Because of their small size, clay and silt particles often float throughout the water, rather than settling to the bottom, and can be carried long distances during rainstorms.

When there is too much sediment in the water, the water becomes cloudy and muddy-looking. Cloudy water does not allow sunlight to filter through to bay grasses growing at the bottom of the Bay's shallows. Just like plants on earth, bay grasses need sunlight to grow; without it, these underwater grasses die, which affects the young fish and blue crabs that depend on bay grasses for shelter.

Bay jurisdictions are expected to use the draft allocations as the basis for completing their Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs), which detail how they will further divide the limits among different sources of pollution and achieve the required reductions. Jurisdictions must provide the first drafts of their WIPs to the EPA by September 1, and final Phase 1 WIPs are due November 29.

“While we all recognize that every jurisdiction within the watershed will have to make very difficult choices to reduce pollution, we also recognize that we must collectively accelerate our efforts if we are going to restore this national treasure as part of our legacy for future generations,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin.

The EPA expects the Bay jurisdictions to have all practices in place to meet their established pollution limits by 2025, with 60 percent of the effort completed by 2017. Progress will be measured using two-year milestones, or short-term goals. The EPA may apply consequences for inadequate plans or failing to meet the milestones.

The EPA will issue a draft Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) – the “pollution diet” – on September 24, with a 45-day public comment period immediately following. The final Bay TMDL will be established by December 31.

The EPA proposed draft allocations for nitrogen and phosphorus in July.

For more information about the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, visit www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl.



Jun
03
2010

Chesapeake Executive Council Launches ChesapeakeStat at Annual Meeting

June 2010 -- At its annual meeting on June 3, the Chesapeake Executive Council launched ChesapeakeStat, an online tool to increase accountability and improve coordination of Bay Program restoration activities. ChesapeakeStat presents comprehensive information about Bay Program activities, funding and progress toward goals.

The Executive Council establishes the policy agenda for the Chesapeake Bay Program and is represented by leaders from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, West Virginia, the District of Columbia and the Chesapeake Bay Commission.

ChesapeakeStat allows Bay Program leaders, federal and state agencies, local governments, non-governmental organizations, and members of the public to use the same information to track and plan restoration efforts.

ChesapeakeStat will also be used to highlight local restoration activities. Photos can be entered on a map, and the public can submit ideas for how the website can be improved.

“We’ve initiated a new era defined by bold action and unparalleled levels of accountability,” said EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “ChesapeakeStat will be instrumental in ensuring nothing short of real, measurable results.”

Maryland’s BayStat provided the inspiration and model for ChesapeakeStat, which will be improved and evolved over time.

“Since 2007, BayStat has proven a powerful tool in Maryland for assessing, coordinating, targeting and accelerating our Bay restoration and conservation programs," said Governor Martin O'Malley. "With Administrator Jackson’s leadership, ChesapeakeStat can provide these same critical benefits."

In addition to launching ChesapeakeStat, Executive Council members discussed restoration work done since the last Executive Council meeting in May 2009 and progress on the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). Bay Program partners are currently developing the Bay TMDL, which will be a comprehensive “pollution diet” that will include rigorous accountability for all levels of government, sources of pollution and stakeholders.

States are currently developing detailed plans to meet TMDL pollution limits, with draft plans due September 1 and final plans due November 1. The final Bay TMDL will be competed by the end of December.

The 2010 Executive Council meeting was held in Baltimore at the Living Classrooms Foundation, where council members spent part of the afternoon with Baltimore students restoring a wetland.

In attendance at the Executive Council meeting were EPA Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Chesapeake Bay Commission Chair Thomas McLain Middleton.



Apr
29
2010

New "Pollution Diet" Will Reduce Trash in Anacostia River

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland have announced a new draft “pollution diet” for trash in the impaired Anacostia River, only the second river in the country to get a daily trash limit.

Stormwater runoff, the fastest growing source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers, delivers hundreds of tons of trash to the Anacostia each year. The amount of trash in the river is not only aesthetically unappealing, but it also endangers the river’s wildlife, which may eat or get tangled in the trash.

The draft pollution diet was developed in response to the federal Clean Water Act’s directions to develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) for polluted water bodies like the Anacostia. A TMDL establishes the amount of a given pollutant that a water body can take without compromising water quality standards.

The Anacostia River was added to Maryland and the District of Columbia’s impaired waters lists in 2006 due to excessive trash and polluted water. New stormwater regulations in Maryland and the District of Columbia will work in coordination with the TMDL to reduce the amount of trash entering the Anacostia.

The District Department of the Environment and the Maryland Department of the Environment, along with members of several non-governmental organizations, have worked collaboratively with the EPA to develop this draft trash TMDL.

The three agencies will hold a public meeting on the draft TMDL on May 6, 2010, in Washington, D.C., and take public comments on the plan through May 18, 2010. Visit the Maryland Department of the Environment’s website or the District Department of the Environment’s website for the full draft TMDL.



Dec
01
2009

EPA Details Consequences to Hold States, D.C., Accountable to Reduce Pollution

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has outlined a series of consequences it could impose on the six Chesapeake Bay states and the District of Columbia if the jurisdictions do not make adequate progress reducing pollution to the Bay and its local waterways.

The consequences, listed in a letter from the EPA to the governors of the six states and the mayor of D.C., is a follow-up to a November letter that set the federal agency’s expectations for the jurisdictions to reduce water pollution as part of the developing Chesapeake Bay TMDL.

Federal, state and local officials have been working together to develop the Bay TMDL, a pollution budget that will set limits for sources of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment to the Bay and its tidal creeks, rivers and bays.

While the six Bay states – Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia – and the District of Columbia have considerable flexibility in how they achieve reductions, the jurisdictions must meet milestones every two years for implementing pollution controls.

If any jurisdiction creates an inadequate cleanup plan or fails to meet its milestones, the EPA may impose a variety of consequences, including:

  • Expanding National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit coverage to currently unregulated sources. The EPA could use its authority to designate additional discharges of stormwater runoff as requiring NPDES permits. This could happen if the EPA determines that controls are needed for a discharge based on waste load allocations in the Bay TMDL, or if a discharge is a significant source of pollution or contributes to a water quality standard violation. The EPA can also expand individual areas requiring Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits and individual facilities requiring Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permits.
  • Objecting to NPDES permits and increasing program oversight. The EPA can object to inadequate NPDES permits that do not meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act or the Bay TMDL’s waste load allocations. If a jurisdiction does not renew an NPDES permit in a timely fashion to include sufficient provisions, the EPA can increase of the permit.
  • Require net improvement offsets. New or increased point source discharges may require net improvement offsets that do more than merely replace the anticipated new or increased loadings.
  • Establish finer-scale waste load and load allocations in the Bay TMDL. The EPA will create more specific allocations in the final December 2010 Bay TMDL than those proposed by the six states and D.C.
  • Require additional pollution reductions from point sources. The EPA will revise the final December 2010 Bay TMDL to reallocate pollution load reductions from non-point to point sources of nutrients and sediment, such as wastewater treatment plants.
  • Increase and target federal enforcement and compliance assurance in the watershed. This could include both air and water sources of nutrients and sediment.
  • Condition or redirect EPA grants. The EPA may incorporate criteria into future Requests for Proposals based on demonstrated progress in meeting Watershed Implementation Plans and/or to yield higher nutrient or sediment load reductions.
  • Federal promulgation of local nutrient water quality standards. The EPA will issue standards for nutrient pollution in local waters if a state or the District of Columbia has not developed criteria to protect downstream waters.

Within 60 days of receiving a deliverable – such as a plan, milestone or permit – the EPA will provide an assessment. If EPA finds a deliverable inadequate, the state or D.C. will then have 30 days to respond. EPA will deliver its final assessment and indicate any consequence the agency intends to impose within 120 days of the original submission.

By 2011, the EPA expects the states and D.C. to divide their allocated pollution loads to the local level so that counties, municipalities, conservation districts and watershed organizations understand their role in meeting Bay cleanup goals. The states and D.C. also must offset any increased loads from population growth and land use changes anticipated in the coming decades.

The EPA expects that by 2017, pollution controls will be in place that should result in approximately 60 percent of the required reductions. All measures needed to reach the pollution load limits must be in place no later than 2025.

To help the six states and D.C. improve their pollution control programs, the EPA will provide technical assistance and an additional $11.2 million in grants for fiscal year 2010 – more than double 2009 funding levels. The money will help the states improve permitting, enforcement and other key regulatory activities to reduce pollution.

“President Obama, EPA and the states want real, measurable results to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay. To get there, EPA is strengthening support for our partners, setting clear standards for progress, and ensuring accountability if those standards aren’t met,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

Read the full letter from the EPA to the states and D.C. for additional details about the federal consequences.



Nov
23
2009

Building a Solid Foundation for Bay Restoration

Greetings from the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation and the American Water Research Association conferences in the beautiful Pacific Northwest!

Sometimes you just get lucky and it all just comes together.  Right as we finished a major milestone of completing our initial nutrient target loads and began our watershed plans with those targets, the Bay Program modeling team goes off to two national/international conferences.  In those conferences, the team chaired two sessions, presented eight papers, ran a session synthesis, and sat on a panel session.   What an excellent opportunity to tell the larger research community about the progress we’re making on all fronts in the Chesapeake, as well as the challenges before us.

But while the execution looks smooth and planned, the reality is that when the abstracts were written a year ago for these conferences, we thought we’d be further along in much of our technical analysis.  This isn’t unique to us; it’s by and large the standard operating procedure for all our colleagues in all conferences. 

After all, presenting material at these conferences is a lot like painting the room in a new house.  The presentation, like the painted room, is just the showy surface.  To get to the point where we could add nice shiny paint, some people had to work on the foundation, some erected the framework, while others finished the walls. Finally, like the small visible tip of an iceberg or the fraction of the overall time of working on a house when a room is painted, the presentation is made.

Still, when making these presentations I’m reminded of how far we’ve come as we put together the largest and most complex TMDL ever developed.  And I’m reminded too, as the last presentation is made and we pack up ready for home, of how many people worked to get us this far, and how far we have yet to go together.

About Lewis Linker - Lewis Linker is a modeling coordinator with the U.S. EPA at the Chesapeake Bay Program.



Nov
01
2009

EPA Sets Expectations for States, D.C., to Reduce Pollution to Chesapeake Bay and Rivers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given the six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed – Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia – and the District of Columbia its expectations for the jurisdictions to reduce pollution to the Bay and its streams, creeks and rivers to meet federal water quality standards.

The expectations are part of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), a set of pollution limits that will reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that flows to the Bay and its tidal tributaries.

The EPA expects the six Bay states and D.C. to show how they will reduce pollution loads to levels necessary to meet water quality standards. The jurisdictions will create detailed schedules with specific timelines for implementing and achieving pollution reductions.

By 2010, the EPA expects the six Bay states and D.C. to identify gaps in current programs that must be addressed to meet pollution limits. By 2011, the seven jurisdictions must divide allocated pollution reductions to the local level so counties, municipalities, conservation districts and watershed organizations understand their role in meeting pollution reduction goals.

The EPA will measure the jurisdictions’ progress through two-year milestones that lead up to 2025, when all measures needed for a restored Bay must be put into place.

Should a jurisdiction fail to create an adequate plan or meet its performance milestones, the EPA may impose federal consequences. These consequences will be identified later this fall.

Read the full expectations letter from the EPA to the seven Bay jurisdictions, and visit the EPA’s website for more information about the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.



Oct
01
2009

New Legislation Would Expand Federal Resources, Set Firm 2025 Deadline to Restore Chesapeake Bay

Maryland Senator Benjamin Cardin has introduced new legislation that would greatly expand federal resources, including funding, authority and enforcement tools, and set a legally binding deadline of 2025 for states to put all necessary measures into place to achieve a healthy, restored Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009 would replace section 117 of the federal Clean Water Act, which governs the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program. Under the act, the Bay Program and retains its basic structure as a federal/state partnership.

“This is the most significant advancement on the Chesapeake Bay in the last 20 years,” Senator Cardin said at a press event at Sandy Point state Park in Annapolis to announce the legislation. “This is a robust plan that will put us on a realistic but aggressive path to restoring the Bay to a healthy state that can sustain native fish, wildlife, farmland, and our regional economy.”

The legislation proposes to set for the first time a firm deadline for all Bay restoration efforts to be put into place. By 2025, each state in the Bay watershed would have to set specific targets and implement schedules to reduce pollution from agricultural runoff, stormwater runoff, septic systems and wastewater treatment facilities to the Bay’s tidal waters. To ensure it would be met, the 2025 deadline would become a legally binding part of the Clean Water Act.

“We know we have made progress over the past 25 years, but we equally know that such progress is not enough,” Virginia Natural Resources Secretary Preston Bryant said at the press event, noting that the states will continue to set aggressive two-year milestones to increase transparency and accelerate Bay cleanup.

The Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009 would require that a federal plan to achieve water quality standards in the Bay and its tidal rivers, called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), be completed by December 2010. The TMDL, which is currently in production, cannot include any net increase in pollution from new and increased paved areas, septic systems, large animal feeding operations and transportation systems.

To help the states set and meet new cleanup measures, Senator Cardin’s legislation proposes to significantly expand federal grants for Bay restoration. Most notably, the bill includes $1.5 billion for grants that help municipalities control polluted stormwater runoff from the Bay watershed’s towns, cities and suburbs – the fastest-growing source of pollution to the Bay.

States would also receive increased federal funding for Bay restoration projects through $80 million in implementation grants. For the first time, Delaware, New York and West Virginia would be guaranteed at least 10 percent of the implementation grant funds. Another 20 percent would be used to help farmers and foresters access Farm Bill funding to implement on-the-ground conservation practices.

“If you have the tools and the abilities to get the job done, you’ll get it done,” Senator Cardin said.

In addition, the legislation would put the force of law behind President Obama’s recent Executive Order on the Chesapeake Bay. Every federal agency working toward a restored Chesapeake Bay would be required to submit to the EPA annual action plans reflecting their efforts.

Other proposed provisions of the legislation include:

Requiring the EPA to establish a nutrient trading program by mid-2012.

  • $10 million per year for freshwater and estuarine monitoring programs to evaluate the health of the Bay and its network of streams, creeks and rivers.
  • Updating and expanding the Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants Program into a “Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Grants Program” that provides $15 million annually to innovative, small- and large-scale pollution reduction projects.
  • A permanent ban on introducing Asian oysters into the Bay.
  • A ban on cleaning agents containing phosphorus.
  • A study to determine the relationship between commercial menhaden fishing and the Bay’s health.
  • $4 million in annual funding to eradicate the invasive rodent nutria from marshes in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

Legislators at the press unveiling were confident that the bill would bring real, enforceable progress to the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort, which has made progress in some areas but has ultimately failed to restore the Bay to a healthy state.

“She [the Chesapeake Bay] has been in the intensive care unit for more than 20 years,” Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley said. “One day, she’ll be able to walk out of that ICU … and into the lives of our children and grandchildren.”

Visit Senator Cardin’s website for more information about the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009, including the full text of the bill and a letter of support from three members of the Chesapeake Executive Council.

Watch a video of Senator Cardin and Governor O'Malley speaking about the legislation at its press unveiling in Annapolis, Md., on October 19.
 



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