A Bay Journal article (2019-05-03) summarized the approaches each Chesapeake Bay watershed state is taking in its Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) in order to meet its nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment reduction goals under the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).
The Bay TMDL was established in 2010 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in response to litigation over the declining health of the Bay. The TMDL required all the states within the Bay watershed and the District of Columbia to establish a “pollution diet” to improve the health of the Bay. The TMDL’s final pollution reduction goals must be met by 2025 and each state’s Phase III WIP is supposed to provide the blueprint for accomplishing that goal.
The aggregate 2025 load reduction 201.41 million pounds for nitrogen (on top of previous reduction goals totaling 520.68 million pounds) and 14.7 million pounds for phosphorus (on top of previous reduction goals totaling 31.91 million pounds).
The article summarized key features of each jurisdiction’s Phase III WIP and noted the jurisdiction’s general progress to date in meeting its load reduction targets.
District of Columbia
The District’s targets are 2.42 million pounds of nitrogen and 130,065 pounds of phosphorus. The article noted that the District has already met its 2025 goals, mainly through upgrades at the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant. However, the District’s WIP includes ongoing stormwater control projects due to their other environmental and public safety benefits.
Delaware’s targets are 4.55 million pounds of nitrogen and 108,000 pounds of phosphorus. The article stated that Delaware’s plan would achieve its targets if there was a significant increase in reductions from its agricultural sector. Unlike most other jurisdictions, Delaware’s wastewater sector is very small and has limited opportunities for large reductions.
Maryland’s targets are 45.78 million pounds for nitrogen and 3.68 million pounds for phosphorus. Maryland plans on meeting the bulk of nitrogen reductions through continued upgrades to wastewater treatment plants and a threefold reduction from agriculture. However, stormwater remains challenging, with the WIP reducing the likely amount of impervious surface that must be treated under a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit to 2% per year instead of 4% under current permits. Additional stormwater deficits can be made up by trading overages from the wastewater sector. From the article:
Maryland’s plan outlines activities that would lead to success but says Bay restoration will “test the collective will across seven watershed jurisdictions” to see if they can “live in harmony with the region’s natural resources.” …
The plan’s preliminary estimates say that full implementation will cost the state $273 million a year, with the largest costs incurred by wastewater, followed by stormwater. It estimates that local governments will incur an additional $1.6 billion in costs through 2025, mainly to implement stormwater programs.
New York’s targets are 11.53 million pounds for nitrogen and 587,326 pounds for phosphorus. The article stated that New York has lagged in its progress towards meeting its 2025 targets and that its WIP does not increase requirements on its largest nutrient source – the agricultural sector. Instead, the state is booking “negative growth” in agriculture (conversion of farmland to less polluting development) in order to make up its anticipated shortfall. The WIP also calls for more than a 25% reduction in its stormwater runoff, which given the experience of other states is an ambitious goal.
Pennsylvania’s targets are 73.17 million pounds of nitrogen and 3.04 million pounds of phosphorus. Pennsylvania has also lagged in meeting its reduction targets and could be subject to EPA enforcement and penalties if it fails to show adequate progress to making up its shortfalls. From the article:
Pennsylvania’s draft states that it “is committed to having all practices and controls in place by 2025” and says that its plan provides “reasonable assurance” that those reductions will be achieved. The submitted plan would achieve the goal for phosphorus, but not for nitrogen. The state would fall short by about one third of its goal, or 11 million pounds, and the plan does not clearly show how that gap would be closed.
The WIP says it hopes to shore up part of the shortfall by identifying nutrient control practices that have been installed, but not previously counted toward cleanup goals. The state has also launched an intensive effort to work with local officials and organizations to develop county-level plans, which is a more aggressive effort to engage local governments than has been undertaken in other states.
Having exhausted most of its wastewater treatment opportunities, the state’s remaining reductions must come from its agricultural and stormwater sectors.
Virginia’s targets are 55.72 million pounds of nitrogen and 6.19 million pounds of phosphorus. Its WIP anticipates additional laws and public funding to achieve the 2025 targets. Additional wastewater treatment reductions will likely be needed to offset shortfalls in its agricultural and stormwater sectors. In addition to potential agricultural requirements such as expanding farmland subject to nutrient management plan and excluding livestock from streams, Virginia’s WIP establishes a workgroup to expand local government authority to protect water quality.
West Virginia’s targets are 8.22 million pounds nitrogen and 431,952 pounds of phosphorus. The article noted that the state has already exceeded its 2025 goals, mainly due to wastewater treatment plan upgrades, agricultural and stormwater reductions, and changes in how the Bay TMDL loads are calculated. The WIP still contains stormwater control projects due to other benefits to local waterways.