Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint
Maryland's Watershed Implementation Plan
in millions of pounds per year
||2017 Interim Goal
|Go to Maryland's WIP website >>
In 2010, after decades of voluntary efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay failed to remove it from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) list of "impaired" waters, EPA established an enforceable pollution limit known as a "Total Maximum Daily Load" (TMDL) for the Bay and its tidal rivers. The TMDL, a provision of the Clean Water Act, is a scientific estimate of the maximum amount of pollution the Bay can tolerate and still meet water quality standards. Pollution reduction by the six Bay states and the District of Columbia is essential to cleaning up the Bay.
Subsequently, Maryland and the other six jurisdictions agreed to create state-specific plans to implement 60 percent of their Bay cleanup practices by 2017 and 100 percent by 2025. These plans are called Watershed Implementation Plans or WIPs and will not only help restore the Bay, but will also significantly improve the health of local waterways. Collectively, the TMDL and the WIPs establish the Cleanwater Blueprint for the Chesapeake.
How Much Progress Has Been Made?
Since 1985, Maryland and the Bay states have achieved a little less than half the pollution reductions necessary to meet Bay restoration goals. These reductions appear to be working, as a recent study of actual conditions in the Bay by the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University showed that the size of the Bay's oxygen-starved "dead zone" has shrunk specifically because of efforts from the Bay states, including Pennsylvania.
But the work is far from done.
Maryland's Two-Year Milestone Progress
To track progress toward achieving the 2017 and 2025 deadlines for implementing the Cleanwater Blueprint the Bay states and the District of Columbia agreed to establish interim, two-year cleanup goals called Milestones, and to publicly report progress toward achieving them beginning January 2011. The two-year Milestones and progress reports are a critical tool to hold the states and EPA publicly accountable.
On May 30, 2013, EPA provided its interim assessments on the seven Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions' progress toward meeting their 2012-2013 Milestones and Watershed Implementation Plan goals.
On July 8, 2013,CBF and Choose Clean Water (CCW) released an analysis of selected Milestones. The goal of this analysis was to ensure that commitments were met, and if not, that actions are taken to compensate for any shortfall.
Overall, Maryland has made important progress on agricultural conservation practices and is on track with implementation ofurban stormwater retrofits. However, there are low-impact stormwater practices for which they have made substantial long-term commitments, but did not set milestone goals (e.g., bioswales, vegetated channels).
Source: Chesapeake Bay TMDL website
View the complete report (PDF 554 KB)
Maryland's plan calls for the continued upgrading of the state's 67 largest sewage plants so they discharge much less nitrogen. To reduce pollution from farm fields, the state plans to continue paying farmers to voluntarily plant cover crops to take up excess nutrients in the soil and implement a variety of other "best management practices."
You can track progress for all Bay jurisdictions on EPA's Chesapeake Stat website. On EPA's Chesapeake Bay TMDL website you can read about progress already being realized.
Progress in 2012
In the 2012 legislative session, Maryland took major steps toward implementing its blueprint for finally restoring the Chesapeake Bay.
The General Assembly showed remarkable courage in approving two bills that will fund major improvements of the state's largest sewage plants, and of its long-neglected stormwater facilities.
One bill (HB 446), doubles the so-called flush tax to finish upgrading the state's 67 largest sewage plants. That measure will decrease nitrogen pollution by about 3.7 million pounds a year. Lawmakers also approved a second bill (HB 987) to require the state's nine most populated counties and Baltimore City to collect a fee to reduce polluted runoff. The local governments have complete freedom to set the fee based on their unique stormwater needs. Polluted runoff is the fastest rising source of water pollution.
The U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA) Agency had said funds from both bills were absolutely necessary for the state to meet its Bay clean-up promises.
The General Assembly also approved SB 236, which aims to steer development with septics away from the state's most rural and environmentally sensitive areas.
On June 1, Maryland published draft regulations that will help reduce pollution from septic systems by requiring each new home to use the best available technology if it uses a septic system. Tens of thousands of new homes are expected to be built with septics in Maryland over the next few decades. A conventional septic system discharges up to ten times more nitrogen than a home hooked into a sewer system. But state-of-the-art septic systems can reduce that nitrogen discharge by 50 to 70 percent. If approved, the regulation won't reduce existing pollution from septics, but it will significantly slow the amount of new nitrogen pollution from septic systems in the future. Furthermore, the regulations will also require that these advanced systems are appropriately operated and maintained so that they provide the nitrogen pollution reductions expected of them.
EPA evaluated Maryland's Phase II WIP and two-year milestones and provided feedback on May 31, 2012.
EPA officials recognized Maryland's major progress in its clean-up blueprint. EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin said Maryland's progress was "commendable."
What Obstacles Does the Cleanup Face?
The work is far from done. Over 5,800 miles of Maryland rivers and streams remain impaired, meaning they don't meet standards set in the federal Clean Water Act. The state warns residents against swimming or coming in contact with water for 48 hours after a thunderstorm because of contamination running off the land. Fish kills, algae blooms and other phenomenon also remain common as the Bay struggles to right itself.
In short, the Chesapeake remains an ecosystem dangerously out of balance. That becomes a problem for everyone, from watermen who no longer can make a living on the water, to homeowners whose basements flood with putrid water during storms.
Vexing problems remain to be ironed out. Reducing and treating polluted runoff is expensive, but also necessary. Dedicated funding is needed for the job, especially as several counties and cities are required by state-issued permits to reduce this pollution. Maryland's also is relying on these reductions to help meet its overall pollution limits.
Feasible solutions also are needed to reduce pollution from septic systems. This is particularly a problem in rural areas where builders depend on septic systems to develop far from existing communities that have sewer systems. A home on a septic system discharges up to ten times the amount of nitrogen pollution than a home on a sewer line. So continuing to allow thousands of new septic systems only nullifies the progress we have made reducing pollution from farms, sewage plants and other sectors.
Apathy, finger-pointing, anti-Bay legislation and lawsuits, powerful interest groups, and a bad economy all threaten to derail the collaborative local/state/federal Bay cleanup. Yet most experts consider this the Chesapeake Bay's best, and perhaps last, chance for real restoration. The problems have been identified; we have the know-how and tools to fix them; and the benefits—such as job creation—of a restored Chesapeake Bay manifestly outweigh cleanup costs. If we work together to make the pollution limits work, many scientists believe the Chesapeake Bay will reach a tipping point when improvements outpace pollution and the Bay rebounds exponentially.
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