York and Adams Smart Growth Coalition

Pennsylvania's Pollution Diet

1/10/2011
 

Pennsylvania’s Pollution Diet

by Shanna Wiest
Board member
York/Adams Regional Smart Growth Coalition

As 2011 is upon us, Pennsylvania is embarking on our own New Year’s Resolution: a “Pollution Diet” in order to save the national treasure of theChesapeake Bay. Pennsylvania is responsible for half of the fresh water entering the bay. Our state reportedly contributes 106.4 million pounds of nitrogen and 3.96 million pounds of phosphorous to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed each year, along with another 1.28 million tons of sediment. The nitrogen and phosphorous affect the chemical balance of the bay, making it harder for crabs and clams to survive. A report from the Chespeake Bay Foundation, released in late December, found the Bay improving but still out of balance. Read news coverage of the report here and here.

On Dec. 29, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the new federal standards establishing how much nutrient and sediment pollution each state is allowed to contribute to the bay watershed by 2025. Draft total maximum daily load, or TMDL, limits released in the summer of 2010 indicated Pennsylvania needed to reduce current annual nitrogen discharges by 28 percent; phosphorous discharges by 31 percent; and sediment by 17 percent. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has been developing a Watershed Improvement Plan to help Pennsylvania attain these TMDL levels. DEP submitted its revised plan to the EPA in November.

John Hines, DEP’s Deputy Secretary for Water Management, said in a recent public presentation to Lancaster dairy farmers, “This is not just an ag issue or wastewater treatment issue or storm water management issue. This is a Pennsylvania issue. Like Ben Franklin said, ‘If we hang, we better hang together or we will most assuredly hang separately.’”

To meet the 2025 goals, Pennsylvania’s plan is based on three elements:

  1. Establish challenging yet attainable 2-year milestones and improve the state’s ability to track its progress on pollution reduction measures.
  2. Implement advanced farm conservation technologies and nutrient trading.
  3. Expand and continue common sense compliance efforts, particularly for nonpoint sources such as agriculture and storm water runoff from development.
As with any diet, it’s not going to be easy. New healthier habits must be formed with a long-term commitment. The TMDL will have an impact on our municipal authorities, agriculture and future construction in York and Adams counties. John Hines will discuss the local impact of the plan during a presentation to the York/Adams Regional Smart Growth Coalition at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 12. The event is being held at the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties, 901 Smile Way, York. The event is free but registration is required by emailing shanna@yorkadamssmartgrowth.org.

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