Environmental Groups Judge Bay States on TMDL Progress

A June 11 Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Press Release announced the latest analysis by CBF and the Choose Clean Water Coalition (CCWC) on the progress being made by states in meeting their water pollution reduction milestones under the federally mandated Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for 2012-13.  The analysis found that pollution is being reduced but that agricultural pollution and urban/suburban runoff reductions are falling short.  The analysis has been released in anticipation of a full review by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  From the press release:

Significant progress has been made in reducing pollution from sewage treatment plants. While those efforts are to be applauded, reducing pollution from agriculture and urban and suburban runoff needs to be accelerated. All pollution sources must do their fair share.  …

While reducing pollution from sewage treatment plants exceeded 2013 goals, watershed wide, our analysis shows that implementation of some important practices like forested buffers and urban stream restoration lag behind what is necessary to achieve long-term goals. …

EPA is also reviewing the results of the 2012-13 milestones, and it will look at the states’ 2014-15 milestones. It is essential that EPA holds the states accountable so that the next two-year milestones correct deficiencies and make up for the shortfalls. CBF and CCWC have made specific recommendations on actions the states can take moving forward to make up for lack of progress in 2012-13.

The press release also summarized the analysis findings for each of the Bay states, including Maryland:

Maryland met its pollution-reduction goals for 2013. Of the seven milestones assessed, Maryland exceeded its goal in animal waste management systems, forest buffers, grass buffers, urban/suburban polluted runoff management, urban forest buffers, and improving pollution from septic systems. Maryland missed the mark on planting trees outside of buffer zones and did not set a 2013 goal for urban forest buffers, despite committing to significant levels of implementation by 2025. CBF and CCWC believe the milestones were set way too low for this important water quality practice.

“Clearly, Maryland should be proud of its progress. Marylanders are reducing pollution to the Chesapeake from farm fields, sewage plants, septic systems and other sources,” said CBF Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost. “But the state is neglecting common sense, cost-effective, and pollution reducing tools such as planting trees. To reach our ultimate goal of water safe enough for swimming and fishing, we will have to set our interim goals higher, and step up our pace.”

“While our analysis shows Maryland meeting its milestones for many important pollution practices, a closer look at the data reveals there is a long way to go to meet the 2017 and 2025 goals. We suggest that Maryland take a look at many of these goals with an eye on 2017. Some highly efficient practices where the state is doing well should have more ambitious targets in the future,” said Maryland League of Conservation Voters’ Brent Bolin.

Maryland has to get serious about planting trees in both the urban and agricultural sectors. Maryland is not on pace to meet 2017 and 2025 goals and therefore needs to accelerate efforts immediately on this valuable practice. This means changing its Forest Conservation Act to increase the required amount of trees that have to be planted during development, emphasizing forested buffers over grassed buffers on agricultural land, and encouraging farmers to plant trees on farms beyond buffer areas.

CBF and CCWC are also concerned about the underlying data for Maryland’s calculations on retrofitting stormwater management. There is a lack of transparency concerning both the numbers being reported to the state, as well as how the reductions are calculated.  View Maryland’s Report

For copies of each Bay State’s analysis (DC, DE, MD, NY, PA, VA, WV) click here.

Coverage from a June 11 DelmarvaNow article:

Five states and the District of Columbia are making strides toward reducing Chesapeake Bay-bound pollution, but all fell short of meeting at least some of their own initial goals, two environmental groups say. …

The report, which is being released today, comes as the Environmental Protection Agency puts the finishing touches on its own report card on the states’ progress from 2012-13. The two-year milestones were first put in place in 2009 as a way to hold states more accountable in meeting the cleanup’s often-lofty, long-term goals.  …

Delaware stood out among its peers in the report as the only jurisdiction to fail to meet both its nitrogen and phosphorus reduction goals.

Nutrient pollution from farms increased during the two-year span, and the state failed to meet three of the seven cleanup milestones selected for the report.

But the First State also may be guilty of trying to do too much too fast, said Brenna Goggin, an environmental advocate with the Delaware Nature Society.

“Some of them, Delaware being one, were quite ambitious in setting their goals,” she said. “Delaware has been supportive of the entire process from the very beginning, saying, ‘Yes, we can do this.’ But bureaucracy is bureaucracy.”

Conduit Street Coverage of Previous CBF Milestone Analysis