Enviro Group Questions Shore Efforts, Supports Phosphorus Tool

A July 14 Capital-Gazette article announced the release of two reports, “Poultry’s Phosphorus Problem” and “Murky Waters“,  by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) criticizing phosphorus reduction efforts on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  EIP is an environmental “watchdog” group that monitors the implementation and enforcement of certain pollution laws.    The two reports advocate better monitoring and pollution management controls for Maryland farms and the Eastern Shore’s poultry industry and the implementation of the State’s proposed Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) which was delayed after concerns raised by the agricultural community.  The article notes that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also recommended stronger verification of agricultural best management practices for water pollution.  From the article:

The Environmental Integrity Project reports recommended more precise monitoring and putting a new farm pollution management program in place in Maryland.

“These reports provide a wealth of evidence that Maryland must move forward with implementing its long-promised Phosphorus Management Tool, which is critical to controlling he phosphorus pollution hotspots on the Eastern Shore,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project.  …

Most of the farm pollution on the Eastern Shore stems from using chicken manure from hundreds of chicken operations as fertilizer. That is the subject of the second study released Monday, “Poultry’s Phosphorus Problem: Phosphorus and Algae in Eastern Shore Waterways.”

The article also included responses from the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Maryland Department of Agriculture:

The Bay Program said Monday it is still reviewing the EIP reports but agrees with two major points — that more direct water monitoring is needed and further examination of best management practices.

“CBP continues to expand its monitoring network throughout the watershed, with the EPA nearly doubling its investment in this area in the past few years,” said Nick DiPasquale, director of the Bay Program.  …

Maryland agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance understands the worry [by the agricultural community over the PMT].

“The PMT will change the way agriculture operates on the lower eastern shore,” he said. “ No one likes change.”

From July 14 coverage by the Baltimore Sun’s B’More Green blog:

The [EIP] reports echo in part a recent analysis by the U.S. Geological Survey, which found that phosphorus levels measured farther upstream in most major bay tributaries have shown no improvement in the past decade, and some have gotten worse.

But Scott Phillilps, bay coordinator for the geological survey, said while the data suggest a lack of progress it’s not clear that’s the case. Meanwhile, he cautioned that increasing stream monitoring to study effectiveness of farm runoff controls may not be enough, because variability in soils and other characteristics may prevent generalizations.

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of the PMT