Despite Significant Progress, State Acknowledges More Work is Ahead
HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger today stressed the state's commitment to help restore the Chesapeake Bay, saying looming federal pollution reduction requirements necessitate a workable, cost-effective plan to meet these challenges, which his department has prepared.
"To be sure, Pennsylvania has reduced the amount of pollution we're putting into our waters and the bay from all contributing sectors and industries, but we understand that more needs to be done," said Hanger, noting that since 1985, Pennsylvania has reduced nitrogen by 28 percent, phosphorus by 46 percent, and sediment by between 38 and 46 percent. "One of the important questions to ask, though, is: how much more needs to be done?"
According to existing models, Pennsylvania is now contributing 106.4 million pounds of nitrogen and 3.96 million pounds of phosphorous to the bay watershed each year, along with another 1.28 million tons of sediment. However, Hanger said it is important for the commonwealth to verify whether these figures are accurate.
"We have a good understanding of what our sewage treatment plants have achieved in terms of reductions, but we believe farmers, developers and other groups may underreport the good work they've done," said Hanger. "We want to develop a process that will give us a better handle on how well we have done to date. With that information, we'll have a better sense of what more needs to be done."
The EPA is expected to institute a total maximum daily load, or TMDL, which sets enforceable limits on how much nutrient and sediment pollution each state is allowed to contribute to the bay watershed by 2025. Draft allocations published this summer call for Pennsylvania to reduce annual nitrogen discharges to 76.8 million pounds; phosphorous discharges to 2.7 million pounds; and sediment to between 0.95-1.05 million tons per year. The federal agency is expected to publish the Chesapeake Bay watershed TMDL in December.
John Hines, DEP's deputy secretary for water management, presented the state's plan to citizens and federal officials during a meeting hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The meeting and others scheduled throughout the state this week offer an opportunity to discuss the federal requirements.
To meet the 2025 goals, Hines said Pennsylvania's approach is based on three core elements:
1. Establish challenging, but attainable two-year milestones and improve the state's ability to track its progress by cooperating with those taking pollution reduction measures and partners such as county conservation districts.
2. Implement advanced technologies and nutrient trading. DEP is working with the state Department of Agriculture and companies to install technologies such as methane digesters and electrical co-generation plants on dairy, poultry and hog farms that can produce electricity and marketable byproducts; reduce methane emissions; and generate renewable energy, nutrient reduction and carbon credits that can then be sold, providing a new source of revenue to farmers. Pennsylvania's existing Nutrient Credit Trading Program has already proved a viable option for municipal treatment plants and communities that must reduce their nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment discharges.
Secretary Hanger has called for an annual $100 million investment fund, financed by the federal government and bay states, to support large-scale methane digester projects throughout the watershed, including at least one per year in Pennsylvania. Each project would have the potential to remove at least 1 million pounds of nitrogen from the Chesapeake Bay.
3. Enhancing common sense compliance efforts, particularly for nonpoint sources such as agriculture and stormwater runoff from development. For the farming industry, the state plans to expand outreach efforts and technical assistance; and continue existing regulatory programs, but make changes where necessary. To reduce stormwater runoff, DEP is examining requirements in the recently adopted revisions to Chapter 102, erosion and sedimentation regulations, and is developing the next-generation general permit for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System communities that will enhance best management practices to reduce pollution discharges.
"Pennsylvania is responsible for half of the fresh water entering the bay. Consequently, no state has been called upon to produce greater reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus loads," Hines said. "We can and we must improve this – not only for the bay, but for ourselves. By cleaning up our waters, we are restoring our chance to enjoy improved recreation, safer drinking water and greater opportunities for economic development."
Details on the remaining EPA public meetings in Pennsylvania are as follows:
- Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2 p.m. - 4 p.m., Lycoming College, Wendle Hall, 700 College Place, Williamsport, PA 17701. A webinar of this meeting is also scheduled.
- Thursday, Oct. 21, 2 p.m. - 4 p.m., Bentley's of Northern Pennsylvania, 2300 Route 309, Ashley, PA 18706.
For more information, visit www.dep.state.pa.us, Keyword: "Chesapeake Bay."
Media contact: Jamie Legenos, 717-787-1323
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection