The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a “pollution diet” for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. The “diet” sets pollution limits for Pennsylvania, Delaware and four other states as well as the District of Columbia. The limits are intended to reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediments in the bay by between 20 and 25 percent.
Shawn Garvin, administrator for the EPA’s Mid-Atlantic region, said extensive cleanup efforts over 25 years have not been enough to restore the bay. He calls the new plan “monumental.”
It is “the largest water pollution strategy plan in the nation,” Garvin said, “and I would say that if it’s not (the largest) in the world it’s got to be in the top one or two.”
The diet largely leaves mechanisms for reaching specific pollution targets up to the states, but it allows for increased federal oversight for problem areas. If Pennsylvania does not meet short-term goals for pollution reduction in agricultural, storm water and waste water runoff, the EPA may step in to make policy adjustments.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said it has already reduced nitrogen pollution to the bay by 28 percent, phosphorus by 46 percent, and sediment by between 38 and 46 percent. Michael Scott, a department spokesman, said that while significant progress has been made, more work still needs to be done.
“We are proud of what we have done in Pennsylvania over the past two years to reduce pollution flowing through our waters to the bay by millions of tons,” Scott said.”But we recognize that more needs to be done, so we’re committed to continuing to work with the federal government and other bay states to do our part.”
The EPA will require 60 percent of new pollution reduction measures to be in place by 2017; all must be operating by 2025. In a report released Tuesday, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation wrote that there were improvements in eight of 13 of the bay’s water quality indicators since 2008. Overall, the group gave the bay a D-plus for health.