PHILADELPHIA — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) that sets limits on the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution discharged into the Bay and each of its tributaries by different types of pollution sources. The draft TMDL calls for 25-percent reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus and at least a 16-percent reduction in sediment to achieve a healthy Bay and local rivers. These reductions, which EPA said the science indicates are necessary to achieve a healthy watershed, would be achieved by a combination of federal and state actions.
Development of the draft TMDL followed EPA review of pollution-reduction measures proposed by the states and the District of Columbia earlier this month in their Watershed Implementation Plans. As a result, the draft TMDL allocations reflect a combination of defined state commitments and supplemental EPA measures which tighten controls on permitted “point sources” of pollution, such as wastewater treatment plants, large animal agriculture operations, and municipal stormwater systems.
EPA will now work with federal partners such as the Department of Agriculture, to assist Bay watershed states and the District of Columbia as they revise and strengthen the implementation plans before final versions are due on Nov. 29.
“While EPA felt that the plans submitted by Maryland and the District of Columbia represented a strong start, others still contained gaps that reduced EPA’s confidence that the state could achieve all the pollutant reductions necessary to meet its contribution to Bay restoration,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “We are hopeful that the jurisdictions will provide a greater level of assurance in their final plans, so that EPA can reduce the federal measures in the final TMDL. EPA strongly prefers to achieve the necessary pollution reductions through the state plans rather than federal actions because the states have more flexibility and can achieve reductions from a wider range of sources than EPA.”
The Draft TMDL, which contains evaluations of the plans and EPA adjustments for all seven jurisdictions, can be found at www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl.
The release of the draft TMDL begins a 45-day public comment period that will include 18 public meetings in all six watershed states (Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, and West Virginia) and the District of Columbia. A full public meeting schedule, including registration links for online broadcast is available on the Bay TMDL web site: www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl. The web site also provides instructions for accessing the draft TMDL and providing formal comments.
The TMDL is designed to ensure that all pollution control measures to fully restore the Bay and its tidal rivers are in place by 2025, with 60 percent of the actions completed by 2017. The final TMDL will be established Dec. 31.
On July 1, EPA set draft Bay-wide limits for nitrogen and phosphorus at 187.4 million and 12.5 million pounds per year, respectively, and on Aug. 13 set a range of allowable sediment pollution levels at between 6.1 and 6.7 billion pounds per year. These Bay-wide pollution limits were further divided by jurisdiction and major river basin based on state-of-the-art modeling tools, extensive monitoring data, peer-reviewed science, and close interaction with state partners.
The TMDL is supported by accountability measures to ensure cleanup commitments are met, including short-and long-term benchmarks, a tracking and accounting system, and additional federal actions, if necessary, to spur progress. It will build on state programs already in place, some of which are helping reduce pollution and improve the Bay’s health — for instance, Maryland reported a record sign-up this fall for one of its most successful agricultural pollution control programs, achieving more than 150 percent of its two-year goal for the Chesapeake Bay.
The TMDL was prompted by insufficient restoration progress over the last several decades in the Bay. The TMDL is required under federal law and responds to consent decrees in Virginia and D.C. dating back to the late 1990s. It is also a keystone commitment of a federal strategy to meet President Obama’s Executive Order to restore and protect the Bay.