Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Acting Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty today announced that Pennsylvania and other regional restoration leaders have taken a critical step to improve water quality crucial to the return of abundant plant and animal populations in the Chesapeake Bay.
Chesapeake Bay Program partners, including Pennsylvania, agreed at a recent meeting to steep cuts in the amount of nutrients flowing into the bay and its rivers. The new goals commit watershed states and the District of Columbia to reduce nutrient pollution by more than twice as much as has been accomplished since coordinated Bay restoration efforts began nearly 20 years ago.
"Pennsylvania is proud to have helped forge this historic compromise to save such a priceless resource as the Chesapeake Bay," McGinty said.
The new nutrient reduction goals, or allocations, call for watershed states to reduce the amount of nitrogen from the current 285 million pounds to no more than 175 million pounds per year, and phosphorus from 19.1 million pounds to no more than 12.8 million pounds per year. When coordinated nutrient reduction efforts began in 1985, 338 million pounds of nitrogen and 27.1 million pounds of phosphorus entered the bay annually.
"Pennsylvania is especially pleased to have helped chart a course of action that reduces costs by ensuring that the state gets credit for reductions in both air pollution and water pollution, and by bringing many more states to the table to contribute pollution reductions as well," McGinty said.
For many years, water quality improvements in the Chesapeake Bay have been hindered by excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus running into the rivers and streams that feed the Bay. High nutrient levels threaten the delicate balance of the Bay ecosystem by causing the rapid growth of unhealthy algae and prohibiting light from reaching underwater grasses critical to the health of the Bay's fish and shellfish.
These new science-based goals, developed over the past three years by researchers, scientists and policy-makers from six states, the District of Columbia and the federal government, provide a framework to allow Bay states like Pennsylvania to implement plans to reduce nutrient pollution entering the bay through local streams and rivers.
Each state in the 64,000-square-mile Bay watershed -- Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia -- will use the new goals to develop and hone plans to encourage residents, farmers, local governments, wastewater treatment plant operators and community watershed organizations to reduce the amount of nutrients flowing into local waterways.
Pennsylvania shares no shore frontage on the Chesapeake Bay but plays a defining role in determining the bay's health, contributing more than half of the estuary's fresh water through the Susquehanna and Potomac watersheds.