Friday, February 1, 2013

Somebody Else Gets It!

Rural county officials are pointing to pollutant-laden sediment behind the Conowingo Dam as the place efforts should be focused to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

On that point, Environmental Matters Committee Chairwoman Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Dist. 43) of urban Baltimore and the leaders of Dorchester, Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Frederick, Carroll and Allegany counties agree.

But those same rural officials are balking at expensive state mandates that require local governments to develop watershed improvement plans to reduce pollutants running into the Bay.

“The counties want to look at a different way to do the cleanup, starting with the largest sources first,” said Charles “Chip” MacLeod, a lawyer at Funk & Bolton in Chestertown, the firm retained by the seven counties that have organized as the Clean Chesapeake Coalition.

Millions have been spent on measures that have done little to improve the health of the Bay, and the costs being passed down to the counties “are staggering and unaffordable,” MacLeod said.
As I pointed out last night, the 'Bay Diet' fight between the cities and the rural areas is just heating up. The article does contain some other information I'd not seen elsewhere and find interesting:
Immediate full dredging — estimated to cost about $60 million, which is said to be more than the annual profit from the dam — is not the only option, and other solutions, including partial dredging and piping out some sediment, are being evaluated, McIntosh said.
Frankly, $60 million doesn't sound that bad; I'd say get on; but I don't think that Exelon (the current owner of the dam) ought to be responsible,  after all, all the dam has done is put off the problem for 80 years:
Exelon said the dam does not cause sediment. Sediment behind the dam “originates from other points in the Susquehanna River Watershed,” Exelon spokesman Robert Judge wrote in reply. “The dam has trapped sediment for more than 80 years that would have otherwise flowed into the Chesapeake Bay.”

Although Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources asked FERC to have Exelon say what it would do to keep sediment from washing past the dam as reservoirs fill, the firm has not done so, said Shawn Seaman, manager of the Conowingo project in DNR’s power plant research program.
Some core samples of sediment behind the dam have shown 30 percent fine coal, Seaman said. “There’s all kinds of stuff in that sediment we need to get a better handle on,” he said.
Not that coal is particularly a bad thing; it's black and relatively inert until burned.  However, it's presence suggests a substantial contribution of mine waste in the sediments in the pool; I was always under the impression that poor agricultural practices were responsible for most of the sediment coming down the Susquehanna 

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