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Bay milestones show progress but challenges remain
By DOROTHY NOBLE
PHILADELPHIA (June 28, 2016) — The Environmental Protection Agency on June 17 released its evaluations of the 2014-15 milestones toward restoring the Chesapeake Bay.
These progress assessments looked at where Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia stand toward meeting their pollution reduction commitments in their local waters and the Bay.
EPA measured the progress of their Total Maximum Daily Load commitment actions to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment in the agriculture, urban/suburban stormwater and wastewater sectors.
EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin said, “While we are seeing solid progress across every sector, we also recognize that not all sectors in each of the jurisdictions are where they need to be in order to meet Bay water quality goals.”
The Bay TMDL calls for 60 percent of the pollution control measures to be in place by 2017, and 100 percent of the reductions for Bay restoration to be achieved by 2025.
Garvin indicated that the jurisdictions appear on track to meet load reductions for phosphorus and sediment.
However, the progress evaluations indicate that it is unlikely they will meet the 60 percent threshold for nitrogen reduction by 2017.
Collectively, the jurisdictions finished the 2014–15 milestone on target for nitrogen from wastewater, but not from either the agriculture or urban/suburban stormwater sectors.
For phosphorus, as a whole they achieved the watershed-wide targets for all sectors except for urban/suburban stormwater.
The jurisdictions reached the watershed-wide 2015 sediment targets for wastewater, but did not achieve the goal for agriculture and the urban/suburban stormwater sectors.
In a media conference call, Garvin noted that EPA will continue to offer assistance while also providing closer oversight to ensure that the jurisdictions meet their commitments.
In comparing Maryland’s progress and commitments, EPA stated that it achieved its state-wide 2015 targets for phosphorus and sediment but missed its state-wide nitrogen target. For nitrogen, Maryland is off target in all source sectors except for wastewater.
Based on Maryland’s anticipated reductions for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment during the 2016-17 milestone period, Maryland is on track to meet all its statewide 2017 targets.
Although current data show Maryland on track for its statewide 2025 targets for phosphorus and sediment, data gathered for the TMDL midpoint assessment could show that additional effort may be necessary to achieve the 2025 targets for all three pollutants. However, the evaluation states that Maryland is not on track to meet its 2017 urban/suburban sector targets for any of the three pollutants.
Each of the sectors of agriculture, urban/suburban stormwater, and wastewater treatment systems had designations ‘maintaining ongoing oversight’ in the Maryland evaluations.
Pennsylvania data showed that it achieved its state-wide 2015 target for phosphorus, but did not meet its 2015 state-wide target for nitrogen or sediment.
Based on the anticipated reductions for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment during the 2016–2017 milestone period, Pennsylvania is on track to meet its 2017 state-wide sediment target but not on track to meet its state-wide nitrogen and phosphorus targets.
The evaluation states that Pennsylvania will need to place considerably greater emphasis on increasing implementation in the agriculture sector to address nitrogen and phosphorus, and in the urban sector for all three pollutants to meet its commitments by 2025. In addition, changes in level of effort may be necessary to meet the 2025 targets for all three pollutants.
In the Pennsylvania evaluation, the agriculture and urban/suburban stormwater sectors were designated ‘maintain backstop actions level’ by EPA, while the wastewater sector had the ‘maintain ongoing oversight’ designation.
In January 2016, Pennsylvania released its “Reboot Strategy.” It described the Commonwealth’s intent to ‘ramp up’ efforts for compliance, data tracking and reporting, as well as targeted funding for best management practices implementation to be on track for the 2025 goals.
Virginia data showed achievement in its state-wide targets for nitrogen and phosphorus, but not in its state-wide sediment target. Virginia is not on track for sediment for either the agriculture or urban/suburban sectors. The wastewater sector is on track for all three pollutants.
Based on Virginia’s anticipated reductions for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment during the 2016-17 milestone period, Virginia is on track to meet all its state-wide targets for 2017.
However, in the urban sector, Virginia is not on track for all three pollutants. To meet the 2025 targets, it will need to place additional emphasis on increasing implementation in the urban sector.
EPA designated each of Virginia’s sectors ‘maintain ongoing oversight.’
Several EPA evaluations recognize that further nutrient and sediment reductions need to be developed due to higher portions of pollutants than previously anticipated now passing through the Conowingo Dam and into the Chesapeake Bay. This is due to reservoirs filling up and losing their trapping capacity.
Regarding the two-year assessment, William Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, applauded the pollution reductions made from sewage treatment plants. Baker added, “The region as a whole, however, is not on track to meet its 2017 goals, largely as a result of Pennsylvania’s failure to reduce nitrogen pollution from agriculture.”
During EPA’s conference call, Administrator Garvin was questioned whether the agency anticipated backstop consequences due to Pennsylvania’s ‘shortfall.’
In his response, Garvin stressed, “More work needs to be done,” and indicated that backstop measures will be used if needed. Garvin also emphasized supporting efforts of the jurisdictions, and the evaluations include recommended priorities. Garvin concluded, “We’re all in this thing together.”