After decades of effort, the voluntary, collaborative approach to restoring the health and vitality of the Chesapeake Bay— the largest estuary in the United States—has not worked and, in fact, is failing. A diverse group of 57 senior scientists and policymakers have joined forces to save the Bay. This is our plan.

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Category Archives: Nutrients

Weak Regulation of Manure Proposed

(Posted by Gerald Winegrad)
The Maryland Department of Agriculture announced the development of weakened proposed regulations that are well short of the positions advocated by the Senior Scientists and Policymakers for the Bay to address the pollution from millions of tons of chicken and other farm animal manure that is poisoning ground and surface waters.  Some key elements of the proposals don’t even go into effect until 2016, allowing four more years to do just some of what has been required for land application of treated human sludge since 1985!

The reports from the University of Maryland scientists appointed by the Administration were kept from us and the public until just before the announcement of the proposals for regulations. These scientists recommended much more than was incorporated into the regulations and noted that the EPA’s Bay Program found that farm animal manure is responsible for 24 percent of the phosphorus (this is more than all the municipal WWTPs and industrial dischargers) and 15 percent of the nitrogen flowing to and choking the Bay. This does not include the atmospheric contribution of nitrogen from the volatilization of manure and fertilizer, and subsequent atmospheric deposition of the nitrates estimated at 7% of total bay nitrogen. Septic tanks Baywide are somewhere around 3 percent of the nitrogen, near zero of the phosphorus and for Maryland it’s 6 percent of the nitrogen and near zero of the phosphorous.

Please see our letter to the Governor’s Bay Cabinet urging action on new regulations. The new regulations ignore our science-based recommendations to conform chicken manure and other animal waste and nutrients placed on farm fields with the 1985 requirements for treated human sludge including:  prohibition on winter application after November 1, better buffer requirements including a 100′ buffer in the Critical Area, and a prohibition on the application of manure and other nutrients with phosphorus when the soils are already super-saturated with phosphorus. Also rejected was a requirement that there be adequate monitoring and enforcement of the Nutrient Management Regulations, which is currently lacking.

Please see The Sun article on the cozy relationship between Governor O’Malley and Perdue’s General Counsel and the Food and Water watch release on this issue.

It’s hard to win when you are playing against a stacked deck.

Also see the letter from two full-time working farmers on the need for better nutrient management regulations and in support of our positions.

Glendening, Scientists: Untreated Manure Poisons Chesapeake Bay

(Posted by Dawn Stoltzfus.) On Tuesday, February 21, 2012, members of the Senior Scientists & Policymakers for the Chesapeake Bay made their case for reducing pollution from agriculture at a hearing before the Maryland Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. Former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening provided a strong statement (PDF) in support of SB…Continue Reading

The Biggest Problem for the Bay: Animal Waste

(Posted by Sen. Gerald Winegrad. This op-ed first appeared in The Baltimore Sun on February 20, 2012.)

Millions of tons of one of the Chesapeake Bay‘s largest sources of pollution continue to be dumped onto farm lands without proper regulation. Farm animals produce 44 million tons of manure annually in the bay watershed, and most of it is collected and disposed of on farmland — or left where it falls.

This ranks the bay region in the top 10 percent in the nation for manure-related nitrogen runoff, and the problem of proper management of this waste is exacerbated by the fact that three highly concentrated animal feeding operation areas contribute more than 90 percent of the manure. The Delmarva Peninsula, one of these three areas, has some of the greatest concentrations of chicken farms in the country.Continue Reading

Nutrient Trading: Our Concerns

(Posted by Bill Dennison)

Nutrient trading is the buying and selling of nutrient reduction credits that have a monetary value for the reduction of either nitrogen or phosphorus loading to the waterways. The concept of nutrient trading is to unleash free market forces for nutrient reduction strategies, similar to the approach used with carbon trading to address global warming.

Nutrient trading is a relatively new concept in ecosystem restoration that has been initiated for the Chesapeake Bay. Using the new Google analysis tool (‘ngrams’), nutrient trading only appears in the literature around 1990, but has increased rapidly, with a doubling of citations roughly every three years. There is excitement about nutrient trading as a new approach, and this excitement is evident in the various policy statements explaining nutrient trading. Along with this excitement, there is considerable skepticism also evident, and the issue is often emotive.

The Senior Bay Scientists and Policymakers group has reviewed the status of nutrient trading as applied to Chesapeake Bay restoration. We found that there are a variety of different definitions for nutrient trading being used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state agencies, and that there is a lack of data and case studies to support or refute assertions about nutrient trading. The fact that nutrient trading is complicated, emotive and data poor makes this approach one that deserves close scrutiny and scientific rigor. Within the Senior Bay Scientists and Policymakers group, our nutrient trading report is a carefully crafted consensus between fairly intense and polarized viewpoints and it took quite a bit of effort to strike this balance.
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It’s Time to Put Up or Shut Up

(Posted by Chris Trumbauer Anne Arundel County Councilman

(This is fifth in an ongoing series of posts on What’s It Going to Take?: A look at how the environmental community can regain the initiative and build the political will necessary to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.)
Whats It Going to Take?

If your family is like mine, the struggling economy is making every household economical decision a critical one. I cringed when I got my latest fuel oil bill and turned the thermostat down a couple of degrees to try and lessen the pain of the next bill. My wife and I both own fuel-efficient cars, but we still restrict driving as much as possible to delay filling up our tank as long as we can. Like many families, we are putting off important purchases, hoping to get a little more time out of a pair of shoes or a winter coat.

None of this, however, dampens my strong desire for clean water and healthy air. Pollution is pollution whether it contaminates our environment in a recession, or in an economic boom.
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2012: Changing the Dialogue About Chesapeake Restoration

(This is the first in a series of posts on What’s It Going to Take?: A look at how the environmental community can regain the initiative and build the political will necessary to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.)

(Posted by Bill Dennison)

What's It Going to Take?Our New Year’s resolution for 2012 should be to improve our public dialogue about Chesapeake restoration. Instead of public arguments, recriminations, and debates about the watershed models, we should be talking about innovative approaches to reducing nutrients reaching the Bay. Instead of arguing about how restoring Chesapeake Bay will be too expensive, we should be embracing the new jobs that restoration activities create (see the Chesapeake Bay Foundation report “Debunking the ‘Job Killer’ Myth: How Pollution Limits Encourage Jobs in the Chesapeake Bay Region”). Instead of bemoaning the difference between current conditions and the “good old days,” we should be celebrating the achievements that are being made with respect to realistic, short term targets. Continue Reading