Monday, September 27, 2010

EPA Cracks Down on Pollution From Chesapeake Bay States

The Environmental Protection Agency is threatening to punish five mid-Atlantic states with rules that could raise sewer bills and put new conditions on construction because they failed to meet deadlines to cut pollution by 2000 and 2010. Now, the deadline has been moved to 2025. [That's a threat? Sounds like the usual punt to us.]

EPA recently told Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and New York, which together account for more than 70 percent of the pollution that causes "dead zones" in the bay, that their plans contained "serious deficiencies" and said it could force them to make up the difference with expensive new measures.

The Chesapeake's most problematic pollutants, nitrogen and phosphorus, wash downstream in treated sewage, fertilizer and animal manure. In the water, they fuel unnatural algae blooms, which suck out the oxygen that fish, crabs and oysters rely on.

Federal and state governments have been trying to fix these problems since 1983. They have spent more than $5 billion, but 27 years later, nitrogen has been cut by only about half the amount required. And a study showed phosphorus pollution going up, not down, in eight of nine major Chesapeake tributaries.

Last May, President Obama signed an executive order that shifted the EPA's role from collaborator to cop.
As of this month, states were required to submit plans for cutting pollution before 2025. When those plans came in, several states admitted that they were not sure how they would do it.

EPA noted that two plans - submitted by the District and Maryland - had "deficiencies," requiring minor corrections. But for the five states that take up the rest of the Chesapeake's 64,000-square-mile watershed, the agency found serious faults. The agency gave the states until Nov. 29 to fix these flaws. If they don't, it said, the result could be requirements that sewage plants be upgraded to remove more pollutants, or that urban areas could be forced to corral storm water with measures like "rain barrels," or grass buffers. Over the next 45 days, they will hold 18 public hearings on the Chesapeake in all six watershed states and the District. (Wash Post, 9/25/2010)

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