A crucial clean-up

Feb. 10, 2011, 1:08 p.m. | By Myla Sapp | 13 years, 4 months ago

The Chesapeake Bay water restoration program will effectively promote long term water health

On Dec. 29, 2010, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which according to the EPA is "a historic and comprehensive ‘pollution diet' with rigorous accountability measures to initiate sweeping actions to restore clean water in the Chesapeake Bay and the surrounding region's streams, creeks and rivers.”

, and is a vital commitment of a federal strategy to meet President Barack Obama's Executive Order 13508 to restore and protect the Bay.

The TMDL is a crucial step towards keeping the Chesapeake Bay clean; the watershed affects too many areas to ignore.  Photo courtesy of http://www.Chesapeakebay.net.

In the Dec. 29 statement, the EPA explained that the TMDL calls for a 25 percent reduction in nitrogen, a 24 percent reduction in phosphorus and 20 percent reduction in sediment for all waterways from jurisdictions in the different states of the watershed. The TMDL sets bay watershed limits at 185.9 million pounds of nitrogen, 12.5 million pounds of phosphorus and 6.45 billion pounds of sediment per year.

These dangerous pollutants can cause algae blooms that consume oxygen and produce areas where fish are unable to survive, block sunlight that is vital for underwater Bay grasses and suffocate aquatic life on the bay floor; the restrictions are intended to ensure that all pollution control measures fully restore the bay and its tidal rivers by 2025.

The American Farm Bureau Federation recently filed a lawsuit challenging the TMDL. Farm bureaus in each of the six states impacted by Chesapeake Bay cleanup have challenged various components of the federal act, claiming the federal government's speed-up of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup will force some farmers out of business. Bureaus are also furious with the amount of money that will have to be paid for the mandatory fencing of all streams that flow into the Bay as instructed by the TMDL. Nevertheless, these estimated costs of fencing are highly over exaggerated and the environmental benefits to fencing are tremendous. According to the EPA, there are many federal and state programs to assist in cost-sharing the fencing. Although some farmers may be doing a decent job of protecting water quality, some farmers continue to do very little. Every farm should maintain a level of proper water quality management.

The Bay itself is about 200 miles long and, according to the EPA, is home to more than 3,700 species of plants, fish and other animals. Its watershed occupies about 64,000 square miles, which covers the states of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Nearly 17 million people live in the watershed, and the population continues to grow by more than 130,000 people each year.

It is important to restore health to the water in the Bay area simply because of all of the wildlife and people who depend on the Bay. Although the TMDL will take quite a while to have any visible affects, its long term progress will be a great improvement in terms of water quality and health of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The new TMDL project will undoubtedly be a worthwhile effort in taking steps toward the improvement and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.

Myla Sapp. More »

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