At its July 22 meeting, the BayStat sub-cabinet heard testimony from county elected officials and MACo on the challenges counties face in implementing the new federally mandated total maximum daily load (TMDL) requirements. Created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), TMDLs establish a strict “pollution diet” for the Chesapeake Bay by limiting how much nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment are allowed to enter the Bay. Different counties and watersheds will have different TMDL numbers. All six Bay states (New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia) and Washington DC are subject to TMDLs. States that fail to meet certain pollution reduction milestones could face federal sanctions, including a possible freeze on funding or issuance of federal permits.
Maryland’s ultimate target loads will require a 21 percent nitrogen reduction from wastewater plants, a 25 percent nitrogen and 43 percent phosphorous reduction from urban runoff (such as stormwater), a 25 percent nitrogen reduction and 9 percent phosphorous reduction from agriculture, and a 39 percent nitrogen reduction from septic systems. If a county realizes a greater reduction in one of these areas, the extra gain may be applied towards another area.
Harford County Executive and MACo President David Craig testified that 45 percent of Harford County’s watershed is in agriculture and the county has invested its own dollars in maintaining important agriculture positions in soil conservation and sediment control that have been subject to State cuts. He noted the county also invested $172 million into water and sewer processes. County Executive Craig also expressed concern over the impact TMDLs would have on growth related to base realignment and closure (BRAC).
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman noted they had 50,000 acres permanently preserved in non-water or sewer areas. He stressed that education was a key component. Anne Arundel County Council Member Cathy Vitale stated that Anne Arundel County was aggressively preparing for TMDLs because so much of the county is within the sensitive critical area zones. She urged that counties be given flexibility in how they choose to meet their TMDL goals.
MACo Associate Director Les Knapp stressed that TMDLs will affect all key sectors of the State, including State government, counties, municipalities, agriculture, and business. He also stressed the need for local flexibility in meeting TMDL goals, arguing against a “one size fits all” approach. Mr. Knapp expressed concerned about possible unintended consequences of TMDL on growth and land use efforts. He also stated the importance having a single TMDL contact person at the State level and having a strong public education and communication outreach.
All three elected officials and MACo stated the need for financial and technical resources in order to meet the TMDL goals. All agreed that some revenue generation device, whether in the form of a dedicated local transfer tax or some other Statewide fee was necessary. Representatives from the Maryland Association of Municipal Wastewater Agencies and the Maryland Municipal League also testified.