Pa., Bay states set new milestones for accelerated cleanup of Chesapeake Bay

Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger today outlined how new nutrient reduction goals for the Chesapeake Bay and a presidential order will accelerate recovery of the Bay...

May 14th, 2009

• Presidential executive order makes restoration of Bay a national priority

HARRISBURG, PA, May 14, 2009 -- Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger today outlined how new, clearly-defined and attainable nutrient reduction goals for the Chesapeake Bay and a presidential order calling for increased federal participation in the cleanup will accelerate recovery of the Bay while greatly improving the health of Pennsylvania's rivers and streams.

Hanger represented Pennsylvania at the annual meeting Tuesday of the Chesapeake Executive Council in Mount Vernon, Va. The council consists of representatives from the six states that contribute fresh water to the bay along with the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U. S. Department of Agriculture, and is responsible for establishing policies for restoring and safeguarding the bay. "The Chesapeake Executive Council has established clearly-defined, attainable goals for reducing nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the bay and restoring the health of this vital estuary," Hanger said. "Creating a series of two-year milestones that will demand real action from all states, along with President Obama's executive order, clearly show that all jurisdictions have committed to accelerating the pace of bay restoration."

The Executive Council announced a series of two-year milestones for reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that cause murky water and algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching bay grasses and dramatically reduce oxygen levels for aquatic life. In the past states had established deadlines for reduction in nutrients and sediments but had not set specific benchmarks or realistic deadlines. As a result, although progress was being made, the deadlines were moved to accommodate shortcomings in pollution reduction efforts and improved science for setting reduction goals.

Under the milestone agreement announced Tuesday, Pennsylvania will reduce its current nitrogen load to the Bay from 102 million to 95 million pounds per year by 2011, and reduce phosphorus loading from 3.5 million to 3.19 million pounds per year by 2011.

The ultimate goal is to have pollution reduction processes in place by 2025 that will reduce Pennsylvania's annual nitrogen load to 72 million pounds per year and phosphorus load to 2.46 million pounds per year. "Pennsylvania is responsible for 50 percent of the fresh water entering the Chesapeake Bay, and as a result, no state has been called upon to produce greater reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus loads," Hanger said. "As we reduce raw sewage running into our streams, Pennsylvanians will also realize the greatest benefits from this effort. We are restoring our own waterways for improved recreation, safer drinking water and greater opportunities for economic development."

The action by the Executive Council was further enhanced when President Barack Obama issued an executive order directing EPA to take a larger role in accelerating and overseeing restoration efforts by the states and the federal government. The agency will take a number of actions including creating a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) in 2010 which establishes federal limits for nitrogen and phosphorus entering Chesapeake Bay waterways from six states and the District of Columbia.

The secretary noted that Pennsylvania is leading by example through innovative programs that are improving water quality by significantly reducing nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution to the bay and are producing measurable results such as a 22 percent increase in underwater bay grasses in the upper reaches of the bay during 2008 which signifies the improvements in water quality entering the bay.

To further reduce pollutants that damage Pennsylvania's waterways and ultimately impact the bay, Pennsylvania is:
• Promoting wider use of riparian forest buffers and grass buffers to reduce urban and agricultural runoff, reduce sediment and nutrient loading and improve habitat for aquatic life;
• Creating the Resource Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP) to assist and encourage farmers to use no-till farming which greatly reduces nutrient and sediment-laden runoff from agricultural lands;
• Implementing a new anti-idling law to help to reduce atmospheric deposition of nitrous oxide emissions from diesel exhaust. Nitrogen deposition is responsible for approximately one-third of the nitrogen entering the Chesapeake Bay from Pennsylvania's waterways;
• Awarding Growing Greener grants to assist with installation of agricultural and stormwater best management practices and the development of nutrient Management plans and conservation planning practices at Pennsylvania farms. Pennsylvania was the first state in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to require farms to have some form of nutrient control.
• Directing money from the H2OPA fund, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and the Clean Water Referendum through PENNVEST to finance projects that will improve the operation of municipal wastewater facilities in the Susquehanna River watershed.

"Pennsylvania has taken a leadership role in the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay since the signing of the original Chesapeake Bay Agreement in 1983," Hanger said. "All of the steps we have taken in the past to reduce the pollution entering the bay from Pennsylvania, and the steps we will take in the next few years, are putting Pennsylvania in a good position to comply with the EPA's forthcoming TMDL for the entire watershed and to keep our commitment to do our part to restore the Chesapeake Bay." The Chesapeake Bay is the nation's largest estuary. The 64,000 square mile bay watershed is home to 17 million people in Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

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