EPA Finalizes Chesapeake Bay Pollution Diet
Agency worked with states to improve pollution reduction plans
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday established a landmark “pollution diet” to restore clean water in Chesapeake Bay and the region’s streams, creeks and rivers. This pollution diet is driven primarily by jurisdictions’ plans to put all needed pollution controls in place by 2025, and EPA will hold jurisdictions accountable for results along the way.
The pollution diet, formally known as the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), identifies the necessary reductions of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. The TMDL is shaped by an extensive public and stakeholder involvement effort during the past two years, coupled with detailed plans by jurisdictions on how they will achieve pollution reductions.
To address deficiencies in draft plans submitted by jurisdictions in September, EPA worked closely with the jurisdictions to improve them during the past several months. EPA was able to reduce and remove most federal backstop measures that were in the draft TMDL, while still maintaining rigorous accountability through enhanced oversight and the availability of contingency actions. The result is a TMDL that is primarily shaped by the jurisdictions’ plans to reduce pollution, which was EPA’s goal.
The TMDL still includes targeted backstops for those jurisdictions that did not meet all of their target allocations or did not meet EPA’s expectations for providing reasonable assurance that they will achieve the necessary pollution reductions. These included backstop allocations and adjustments for the wastewater sector in New York, the urban storm water sector in Pennsylvania and the agriculture sector in West Virginia.
In addition, EPA will provide enhanced oversight of Pennsylvania agriculture, Virginia and West Virginia urban storm water and Pennsylvania and West Virginia wastewater. If the jurisdictions don’t make sufficient progress, EPA may utilize contingencies that include additional controls on permitted sources of pollution, such as wastewater treatment plants, large animal feeding operations and municipal storm water systems.
The pollution diet calls for a 25% reduction in nitrogen, 24% reduction in phosphorus and 20% reduction in sediment. The TMDL, which sets bay watershed limits of 185.9 million lb of nitrogen, 12.5 million lb of phosphorus and 6.45 billion lb of sediment per year, is designed to ensure that all pollution control measures to fully restore the Bay and its tidal rivers are in place by 2025, with at least 60% of the actions completed by 2017.
Federal agencies will contribute to restoration efforts, particularly through implementation of the federal strategy created under President Obama’s Executive Order. Eleven federal agencies have committed to a comprehensive suite of actions on the same 2025 timeline as the TMDL. As part of this work, federal agencies will be establishing two-year milestones that directly support the jurisdictions’ activities to reduce water pollution.