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Chesapeake Bay nitrogen plan hurt by illegal discharges

Efforts to reduce Chesapeake Bay nitrogen pollution from industrial and municipal sources progress have slowed due to illegal discharges continuing at a regular pace across the Bay watershed, states a new report from The Environmental Integrity...


Efforts to reduce Chesapeake Bay nitrogen pollution from industrial and municipal sources progress have slowed due to illegal discharges continuing at a regular pace across the Bay watershed, states a new report from The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).

Despite efforts to reduce overall discharges in D.C., Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and other Bay States, significant violations added nearly 700,000 lbs. of additional nitrogen to the Bay in 2012.  

However, nitrogen discharges from point sources dropped significantly in Virginia, the District of Columbia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania between 2011 and 2012.

On January 9, 2014, EIP released newly compiled data for the entire year of 2012, serving as an update to its December 2012 report, which examined 2011 nitrogen and phosphorus loadings from industrial and municipal facilities as a major source of Chesapeake Bay pollution.The new data show that Maryland’s reversed its progress on nitrogen pollution from these facilities in 2012, increasing its loadings by more than 400,000 pounds. Virginia continued to show progress on its reductions throughout 2012, reducing nitrogen loadings from these sectors by more than 1 million pounds. In another bright spot, Pennsylvania went from increasing its municipal and industrial nitrogen loads by 4 percent between 2010 and 2011 to decreasing them by 16 percent in 2012. This encouraging trend will help the state meet the Bay water quality goals that begin to take effect in 2017, if the momentum can be sustained. 

The EIP report applauds these continued efforts to reduce nitrogen pollution of the Chesapeake Bay to meet the 2010 Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) – a cleanup plan for the Bay.

Tempering the new findings, however, are ongoing concerns that Bay states will require stronger permitting, monitoring, and enforcement to meet their shared goal of a 25 per cent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed by 2025. The states and EPA calculated that these reductions are the minimum necessary to restore the Bay’s water quality and support healthy aquatic life and fisheries.

EIP Attorney Tarah Heinzen said: “2012 progress reducing industrial and municipal pollution in key Chesapeake Bay states is encouraging, but we need to do more if we want to stay on track and meet 2017 goals. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution continues to degrade the water quality and fisheries of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries each year. All of the Bay states must focus on reducing these discharges and get serious about stopping illegal discharges.”

The updated EIP report also focuses on large individual violators, which can offset regional gains with illegal discharges of nitrogen and phosphorus that can also impair local water quality. The report shows that 8% of these large industrial and municipal dischargers violated nitrogen-based permit limits for at least a quarter of 2012. And just 17 of these large dischargers (those whose violations exceeded 1,000 pounds of nitrogen) together released nearly 700,000 pounds of nitrogen above allowed levels into the Chesapeake Bay in 2012.  

A review of EPA data indicates that the following 7 large dischargers exceeded nitrogen-based permit limits by more than 50,000 pounds in 2012:

* Chambersburg Borough Sewage Treatment Plant (PA, 102,036 lbs)
* City of Salisbury Wastewater Treatment Plant (MD, 84,662 lbs)
* Lower Lackawanna Valley Sanitary Authority (PA, 82,216 lbs)
* Marlay-Taylor Wastewater Treatment Plant (MD, 75,483 lbs)
* Frederick City Wastewater Treatment Plant (MD, 72,356 lbs)
* Ballenger Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant (MD, 60,784 lbs)
* Keystone Protein Co. (PA, 51,716 lbs)

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE FULL EIP CHESAPEAKE BAY REPORT



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