Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pipkin Pokes State Powers on Conowingo Dam

Continuing to voice his concerns over the Chesapeake Bay pollution diet and the Conowingo Dam, state Sen. E.J. Pipkin has written to two of the state's environmental secretaries demanding answers to his questions... While the letters are not identical, many of points were the same in each – namely that the model used by the Environmental Protection Agency used to set total maximum daily load numbers for pollution reduction is flawed. “It does not account for a Conowingo reservoir with dangerously diminished capacity to contain sediment and nutrients,” wrote Pipkin to both secretaries.
Why the focus on Conowingo?
In his letter to Griffin, he challenged the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for calling the Conowingo a “red herring” in questions about the TMDL model. He said data from a U.S. Geological Survey report shows that 39 percent of the sediment, 22 percent of phosphorus and 5 percent of nitrogen that flowed through the dam between October 2002 and September 2011 was caused by Tropical Storm Lee last year.

“The data leaves one certain conclusion. One major storm, like last year's Lee, has the ability to wipe out any advancements in the Bay's health,” Pipkin wrote.
As I pointed out last night, the "T" in TMDL stands for total.  Pollution that gets past Conowingo Dam is part of that total.  Any additional pollution that can be trapped at Conowingo doesn't count against that total, and permits municipal sewage systems, agriculture, to spend less money cleaning up to achieve that total.  There's a lot of money involved, and perhaps the owners and operators of Conowingo Dam, Exelon Corp. (it's a hydropower dam), need to come up with some plan to keep it operating as a sediment trap.

Yes, it's expensive.  It's estimated that it would cost $48 million annually just to dredge enough to keep up with the sedimentation.  But that's a drop in the bucket in the $20 billion estimated cost of the Bay diet plan over the next 10 years.

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