Progress has been made — and Bay water quality has improved — but the region is significantly off track to meet its 2025 cleanup goals. In fact, updated pollution control targets approved by the state-federal Bay Program in July show that the shortfall is greater than previously thought.But I'll bet they spend all of the someone else's $28 billion (with a "b").
That wasn’t supposed to happen after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopted a new, more regulatory cleanup plan eight years ago.
Not only did the new “pollution diet” include oversight provisions that were supposed to keep cleanup efforts on track, work was supposed to be front-loaded so that 60 percent of the needed actions would be implemented by the end of 2017 and put the region on a glide path to meet the 2025 goal.
While the region did meet goals for two targeted pollutants, phosphorus and sediment, it achieved only 30 percent of the goal for nitrogen, which has long been the most difficult to control and is the most harmful pollutant in much of the Bay.
More worrisome is that the new cleanup program doesn’t seem to have accelerated the rate of nitrogen reduction. Since 2010, the amount of nitrogen reaching the Bay has decreased at an average annual rate of 2.6 million pounds — or less than 1 percent per year — according to figures from computer models used by the state-federal Bay Program.
That’s essentially the same pace as the previous 25 years — and a rate at which it would take another quarter century to meet the Bay’s clean water goals.