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: Septic

The Session of the Bay

(Posted by Erik Michelsen)

In preparing for the 2012 Maryland Legislative session, the memories of largely unproductive sessions for the environment in 2010 and 2011 were very fresh. The combined environmental community – the Clean Water, Healthy Families coalition – resolved to be more focused, to pursue a direct request of legislators, and to focus on goals that would have a measurable impact on improving water quality. Those goals were:

• Finish upgrading the wastewater treatment plants that Maryland has already committed to upgrade.
• Ensure that local governments have resources to reduce polluted stormwater runoff and implement their local clean water plans.
• Reduce pollution from poorly planned development – including limiting new septic systems.
• Require that all wastewater discharges, including septic systems, are treated at the highest levels to protect public health and ensure clean water.

The first two goals were explicitly stated in Maryland’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) and comprised the core funding strategies for the state’s efforts to address pollution from its central urban and suburban corridor. The last two were focused on ensuring that we don’t erase any gains we make via the first two by developing in a way that creates a staggering amount of new pollution.

As the clock ran down on the legislative session yesterday, the future of the Chesapeake and Maryland’s rivers hung in the balance. Early in the day, legislation to double the Bay Restoration Fund (or “flush fee”) passed, followed by a bill aimed at limiting sprawling growth by restricting where septic-served subdivisions can be located. The debate on a bill to require the 10 largest jurisdictions in the state to create dedicated stormwater restoration fees carried on late into the evening, with opponents, largely from the eastern shore and western Maryland, attempting to filibuster until the end of session, at midnight.

At one point, the floor leader for the bill, Senator Paul Pinsky, asked the opponents – many of whom had invented, and then promulgated, the notion of a “war on rural Maryland”  – why, when they opposed additional water quality regulations on farms on the grounds that agriculture wasn’t the only source of pollution to the bay,  they opposed a bill whose impacts fell most heavily on the densest areas of the state. The opponents fell back to a line of defense that can only be characterized as diversionary. They argued that Maryland’s overall pollution contribution was insignificant compared to the contribution of other states, that the cost of compliance was too expensive, and that the Chesapeake Bay TMDL “pollution diet” was in litigation, so there was no need to rush to address it.

Never mind the fact that the bill was aimed at jurisdictions with an MS4 stormwater permit, which has conditions and requirements that exist independent of the TMDL. Eventually though, the filibuster was shut down, those in favor of the bill in the Senate prevailed, and the bill was sent back to House and passed with 10 minutes to spare in the session.

The community still intends to pursue, through regulations, a requirement that all new septic systems be built using the best available technology, but we ended the evening with three of our four goals in hand and a strong commitment to address the fourth. There can be little doubt that the 2012 session will go down in Maryland lore as the “Session of the Bay,” despite the fact that it was tumultuous in many other respects.

And, with the close of the 2012, Maryland’s cities, town, and suburban enclaves are well positioned to meet their pollution reduction goals going forward. They have developed their plans and now have been given the tools to implement them in a timely fashion. There still remains important work to be done in other sectors, though, with Maryland’s nutrient management regulations still under consideration and an agricultural community divided over its willingness to be a full player in the recovery of Maryland’s most valuable natural resource. The session has ended, but the journey to restoration has just begun.

Perdue’s PR Campaign of Deceit

(Posted by Bob Gallagher)

A group of legislators, following a script conceived by the public relations machine of Perdue and the Maryland Farm Bureau, have joined in Perdue’s unprecedented effort to derail an environmental lawsuit that has singular importance for the Chesapeake bay watershed. The effort is unprecedented in the extent to which Perdue and its enablers are attempting to use the media and the political process to win a case that they have as yet been unable to win in court.

Here is the story.

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Maryland Clean Water Legislation Awaits Committee Votes

(Posted by Gerald Winegrad)

Maryland’s 2012 General Assembly Session is now more than halfway over, and while elected officials are currently focused on the state’s budget, several pieces of important Chesapeake Bay legislation that would help clean up our waters await committee votes.

Today the Executive Council of the Senior Scientists and Policymakers for the Bay delivered this letter to key legislators in support of the following legislation that is in line with our 25-step “action plan,”  specifically with respect to science-based recommendations to control agricultural pollution, foster clean development, upgrade septic systems, and improve wastewater treatment plants:Continue Reading

‘We Must Preserve an Economic Asset’

(This ninth installment in our series, What’s It Going to Take?, looks at how the environmental community can regain the initiative and build the political will necessary to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.)

In this exclusive interview with the Bay Action Plan, Chesapeake Bay Program Director Nick DiPasquale says that the costs of cleaning the Chesapeake Bay are significant, but manageable.

“No time is a good time when you’re talking about trying to implement very costly pollution control measures,” DiPasquale said. “But when you spread that cost over the life of a project… you find that the cost to individual households is a few dollars a month. Compare it to cellphone or cable costs, it puts things into perspective.”

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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

Sprawl Poisons the Bay

(Posted by Gerald Winegrad).

The recent deluges leading to massive stormwater runoff into the Chesapeake Bay may cause great damage to an already seriously impaired system. We previously have discussed in this spot the huge flows of Bay-choking nutrients and sediment from farms each time it rains. Now, we will devote discussions to the pollution flowing from developed lands including huge amounts of nutrients, sediment, and toxic chemicals.

The Chesapeake’s watershed before 1607 was 95 percent forested with huge acreage of intact wetlands. These forests and wetlands absorbed and held nutrients and sediment. The flow of these Bay-killing pollutants was greatly accelerated due to enormous changes in land use when we converted forests and wetlands to agriculture and then, more recently, to development. The Bay region has since lost about 50 percent of its forest cover and 72 percent of its wetlands. No change has been more devastating for the Bay.Continue Reading