by Alicia Pimental
December 30, 2010
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 on EPA's Chesapeake Bay TMDL website.