Pennsylvania’s latest Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan still falls short of its assigned goals, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which announced on Monday that it will begin ramping up inspection and enforcement actions as a result.
EPA officials want the state to provide an updated plan within 90 days — including details about how it will pay for needed pollution control activities — or the federal agency may take additional actions.
“Enforcement is part of what we do here at EPA,” said Adam Ortiz, administrator of the agency’s mid-Atlantic region, which includes most of the Bay watershed. “It's not always our first choice. It rarely is our first choice. But we're at a point now where we have to step up and do our part.”
EPA leaders said their review of Pennsylvania’s revised cleanup plan, submitted to the agency at the end of December, achieved only 70% of the state’s nitrogen reduction goal. Nitrogen is the major form of pollution in the Chesapeake.
Ortiz said the state lacks adequate programs and policies to keep manure from farmlands out of streams and, ultimately, the Bay. And, unlike most other states in the watershed, Pennsylvania is without dedicated funding programs to help farmers with conservation practices such as streamside buffers, cover crops or other actions that can help reduce nutrient-laden runoff. Farms are, by far, the largest source of water-fouling nutrients that reach the Bay from Pennsylvania.
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At the end of December, Pennsylvania officials submitted a revised plan that they said met the goals. But most of the gap was filled by counting agricultural runoff control practices installed years ago that the EPA says have exceeded their expected lifespan and are no longer effective. When those practices are removed from Pennsylvania’s plan, the EPA said it still comes up 9.7 million pounds short.
Klenotic contended that the EPA’s position fails to adequately account for many older pollution control practices on farms that the state insists are still functioning. Water quality monitoring does show that nitrogen trends in the Susquehanna River, which drains most of the Pennsylvania portion of the Bay watershed, are improving. The EPA, though, maintains the state has failed to provide adequate documentation to show the old pollution control measures are still working.
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If the state does not submit an adequate plan — and demonstrate that it has a funding mechanism to pay for it — Ortiz said the EPA could take further actions.
Those could include requiring wastewater treatment plants, which have already achieved their Bay goals in Pennsylvania, to do even more. That could be extremely expensive.
The agency could also put forth water quality standards that are stricter than those currently imposed by the state, or it could begin objecting to any new requests for discharge permits within the state’s portion of the Bay watershed.
As the article notes in an excised section, Pennsylvania does not border the Chesapeake Bay, and so does not benefit much, if at all, from attempts to clean up the Bay, the benefits of which go almost entirely to Maryland and Virginia. Somehow these two states need to find a way to help Pennsylvania meet its goals
More coverge:EPA to step up federal actions in Pa. for water pollution - The Bradford (Pa.) Era
EPA: Expect 'tough love' after Pennsylvania's Chesapeake Bay pollution plan falls short again - Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette
Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Plan Misses Pollution Cut Target - Bloomberg News
EPA: State Plan To Clean Up PA's Part Of Chesapeake Bay Watershed Lacks Funding To Meet Water Pollution Reduction Goals - Pa. Environment Digest Blog