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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached agreement with six states and the District of Columbia on a permitting approach that will set permit limits on nutrients being discharged from more than 350 municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities throughout the 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed.
These permit limits would result in the reduction of about 17.5 million pounds of nitrogen and about one million pounds of phosphorus entering the Chesapeake Bay each year, which will directly help improve water quality.
"This is a pivotal step in the cleanup and protection of the Chesapeake Bay. EPA and the states have committed to making the Bay a healthy environment where plants, fish and other aquatic life can thrive and coexist with development," said Donald S. Welsh, regional administrator for EPA’s mid-Atlantic region.
The discharge of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) from wastewater treatment is one of the most serious problems affecting the Chesapeake Bay. Excessive nutrients in the Bay cause algae blooms in the water, which leads to oxygen depletion and other adverse impacts on water quality. Excessive algae growth can also block sunlight that is critical to support plant and aquatic life.
States and EPA issue permits to all wastewater treatment facilities which regulate the amount of pollutants that can been discharged into waterways after treatment. The permitting approach announced today describes a consistent basin-wide approach to issue permits that include measurable and enforceable limits for nitrogen and phosphorus.
For years, permits have required nutrient removal to achieve localized water quality standards. However, the lack of science-based and achievable water quality standards for the Chesapeake Bay has made it difficult for the states and EPA to regulate nutrient reductions needed to protect the Bay.
EPA has been working with states for several years to develop a basin-wide strategy for these nutrient permit limits. This new strategy covers the entire 64,000-square-mile watershed, and describes how states and EPA plan to develop permit limits based on the living resource needs of the Bay. States participating in the strategy include Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
The Chesapeake watershed already has 100 municipal and six industrial facilities treating wastewater with nutrient removal technology to remove excess nitrogen and phosphorus. No other watershed in the country has more treatment facilities using this technology. As the permitting strategy is implemented, EPA and the states expect the number of plants using nutrient removal technology would increase to more than 350.
A copy of a document that outlines the permitting approach can be found on EPA’s website at: : http://www.epa.gov/reg3wapd/npdes/index.htm