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The policies needed to clean up wastewater treatment plants in the Chesapeake Bay are in place and are working, state and federal officials said.
Because these policies are being implemented effectively, additional regulations being recommended by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) to reduce pollution in this vital watershed would only add delay to the progress being made and divert resources from clean up.
"EPA has determined that existing regulations, coupled with the collaborative partnership outlined in the Chesapeake 2000 agreement, will get us results faster than developing new federal rules," said Benjamin Grumbles, EPA's assistant administrator for water. "Recent actions taken by Maryland, Va. and other Bay partners will help to ensure that we achieve and maintain our restoration goals for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries."
Grumbles' statement is part of EPA's formal response to a petition filed by CBF, an environmental advocacy organization. The petition requested that EPA develop additional federal regulations to achieve nutrient controls in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
In December 2004, EPA and the Bay state partners agreed to a unified permitting strategy, requiring hundreds of wastewater treatment plants to have enforceable limits on nutrient pollution. This strategy will result in more than an 18.5 million pound reduction in the amount of nutrient pollution that fouls the Bay annually.
In keeping with those agreements, both Maryland and Virginia are moving aggressively to issue new water quality standards. Virginia is expected to submit its standards to EPA for final approval this month. Last week Maryland announced an additional comment period for the proposal of its revised standards. Once completed, Maryland's standards would require each of its major sewage treatment facilities to cut nutrient pollution.
"Maryland is leading the charge with Governor Ehrlich's landmark Bay Restoration Fund and is making excellent progress through other legislative, regulatory, and administrative activities related to wastewater treatment in urban and agricultural areas," said Kendl P. Philbrick, Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary. "The new water quality standards are vital in our effort to preserve and restore the Chesapeake Bay and its irreplaceable cultural, economic, and recreational resources. With the implementation of the Chesapeake Bay permitting strategy, we will ensure that Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries can achieve and maintain the water quality standards required by the federal Clean Water Act."
Virginia recently became the second state in the country to enact legislation adopting a nutrient trading program. The first legislation of its kind within the Chesapeake Bay the new law sets a watershed limit on the amount of nutrient pollution that can pour into the Bay.
"We are moving to meet our nutrient reduction commitments with regulatory, statutory and funding programs that have been praised by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, EPA and others," said W. Tayloe Murphy, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources. "We see no need to alter the firm path we are on with actions that may lead to unnecessary delays."
Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty added: "Eliminating the impairment of the Chesapeake Bay can be achieved only with the full participation of Pennsylvania and other upstream states. Our Commonwealth is a full partner in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit strategy, and we are poised to begin implementing the new Maryland water quality standards immediately upon adoption."
The discharge of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater treatment is one of the key problems affecting the Bay. Excessive nutrients can cause algae blooms that lead to oxygen depletion and block sunlight that supports plant and aquatic life. The Agency is committed to effective and timely methods to mitigate the pollution problem.