EPA Releases Latest Bay TMDL Evaluations: Maryland On Track, Pennsylvania Lags Behind

A Star Democrat article (2016-06-26) reported that the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) recently released evaluations show Maryland is on track to meet its individual Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) goals for 2017 but that collectively the Bay watershed states in the region will likely fail to meet their goals. Pennsylvania is a major cause of the pending regional failure, as EPA found it is trailing in its water pollution reduction efforts. Under the Bay TMDL, states must meet 60% of their 2025 nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment reduction targets by 2017. From the Star Democrat article:

Maryland, however, is on track to meet all its statewide 2017 targets, according to the EPA. The state fell short of meeting its 2015 goal for nitrogen in all source sectors except for wastewater, but it achieved its statewide 2015 target for phosphorus and sediment.

The EPA stated in its evaluation of Maryland’s 2014 to 2015 milestones that the state has made enough progress in the agriculture and wastewater sectors to ensure implementation is occurring, “even though all of the milestone commitments were not achieved.” Projected reductions for nitrogen in the urban and suburban stormwater sector are not on track, according to the EPA’s evaluation.

The agriculture sector, however, is on track to surpass each of the sector’s nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment goals by 2017, according to the EPA. …

The EPA states Pennsylvania reached its statewide 2015 target for phosphorus but not for nitrogen and sediment. Pennsylvania is not on target to reach 2017 goals for the agriculture and urban and suburban stormwater sector for all pollutants, according to the EPA. …

“Pennsylvania will need to significantly increase its level of effort to reduce nutrients and sediment to meet its 2025 Bay TMDL goals, especially given that the gap continues to grow as a result of growth in various sectors,” the EPA stated in its review.

In a  press statement (2016-06-17), the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) expressed its frustration with Pennsylvania’s progress in a and also urged Maryland’s local governments to continue to be held accountable for water pollution reduction efforts:

CBF President William C. Baker said:

“The region as a whole, however, is not on track to meet its 2017 goals, largely as a result of Pennsylvania’s failure to reduce nitrogen pollution from agriculture. While we acknowledge that some progress has been made in Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth has consistently failed to meet its goals, missing the mark in the last three two-year milestone periods.

“It is well past time for Pennsylvania to accelerate its pollution-reduction efforts and EPA must do more to ensure that Pennsylvania obeys the law. The U.S. Department of Agriculture can help with more technical and financial resources for Pennsylvania farmers.

Harry Campbell, CBF’s Pennsylvania Executive Director, said:

“It is time for Pennsylvania to make cleaning up our rivers and streams a priority. Our citizens have a right to clean water and as we approach the clean-up mid-point of 2017, it is unacceptable that the Commonwealth continues to languish in meeting its goals.

“Pennsylvania must take decisive action now or face consequences of EPA action.”

Alison Prost, CBF’s Maryland Executive Director said:

“Marylanders can be proud of the state’s progress upgrading large sewage plants and helping crop farmers reduce pollution from fertilizer, especially because both of these improvements have been funded by taxpayers via state programs. But CBF shares EPA’s concern that while Maryland has made progress in cleaning up sewage plants and planting cover crops, we won’t succeed if we don’t account for new pollution from developing areas and the expanding poultry industry.

“We’ve waited decades for local governments to reduce polluted runoff. We are pleased that the Hogan Administration says it will hold local governments accountable for fully funding this work, but success will not be achieved until the work is completed. EPA must increase its scrutiny of the stalled efforts to reduce polluted runoff in Maryland. Additionally, pollution trading programs must be rigorously designed and monitored.

The Star Democrat article also noted that EPA encouraged Maryland’s efforts to address nutrient and sediment loading in the Susquehanna River upstream of the Conowingo Dam:

The EPA stated in its Maryland evaluation that the agency recognizes Maryland is working with Exelon on a $3.5 million enhanced monitoring and modeling study. Exelon runs the Conowingo Dam, which is the last dam along the Susquehanna River that runs through New York and Pennsylvania before the river reaches the Chesapeake Bay.

The dam has lost its sediment-trapping capacity, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study, and during large storm events, the sediment and nutrients associated with it scour over the dam and into the Upper Chesapeake Bay. The study also indicates, however, that nutrients released into the waterway upstream of the Conowingo Dam are of the most concern, rather than the dam itself.

“EPA recommends Maryland continues with these efforts and, along with the Susquehanna River states, begins to develop a strategy to further reduce nutrient and sediment loads to the Chesapeake Bay given that a greater portion of pollutants than previously anticipated is passing through the Conowingo Dam and into the Chesapeake Bay as a result of the reservoirs filling up and losing their trapping capacity,” the EPA stated in its evaluation.

Useful Links

EPA State Evaluations for 2014-2015 Bay TMDL Milestone Progress and 2016-2017 Milestone Commitments