Plan includes expanding current pollution programs and tracking farmers' efforts
Now that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has outlined its final "pollution diet" for states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Pennsylvania's top environmental and agriculture officials say the state is ready to do its part to improve water quality.
State Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger and Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said Pennsylvania's plan provides a reasonable assurance that it can clean up the water flowing into the bay while keeping industries in the watershed viable.
Hanger said that while the state has already reduced its nitrogen contributions to the bay by 28%, phosphorus by 46% and sediment by between 38% and 46%, more work remains to be done. The EPA's final enforceable allocations call for Pennsylvania to reduce by 2025 annual nitrogen discharges to 76.8 million lb, phosphorous discharges to 2.7 million lb and sediment to between 0.95 and 1.05 million tons per year.
Pennsylvania's plan, referred to as a watershed implementation plan, or WIP, calls for continuing existing programs that have proven effective and, in some cases, improving the capacity to track and expand those efforts; implementing new programs that take advantage of advanced and innovative technologies; and enhancing common sense compliance efforts, particularly for non-point sources such as agriculture and storm water runoff from development.
Pennsylvania will improve its ability to track nutrient and sediment reductions made by farmers and other land managers through the plan. Until now, usually only those best management practices, or BMPs, that were associated with a federal or state grant program were reported to the Bay Program, which meant many improvements went unnoticed. Improving communications and cooperation with farmers and partners like county conservation districts will be critical to the success of this effort, Redding added.
Pennsylvania's plan also calls for using new and innovative technologies to reduce pollution. The state has proposed creating a $100 million program, funded by the federal government, states within the bay watershed and other key stakeholders, that would finance four to eight manure-to-energy projects, for example, each year. Each project could remove close to 1 million lb of nitrogen from the Chesapeake Bay.
The Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Agriculture have been working with a number of companies to look for ways to install technologies like manure treatment, methane digesters and electrical co-generation equipment on dairy, poultry and hog farms. These technologies can help reduce nutrient pollution while also producing electricity and marketable soil products that create additional revenue streams for farmers and rural communities.