Bay Journal

EPA: States on track to meet nutrient reduction goals

  • By Karl Blankenship on August 30, 2013
 (Dave Harp)

Jurisdictions in the Bay watershed are on track to meet their nutrient reduction goals set for the end of this year, according to figures released by the EPA.

Figures released by the agency this summer showed that much of the reductions are driven by upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, which in many states have already met, or in many places surpassed, their two-year nutrient reduction goals.

The figures showed a more mixed bag on efforts to control runoff from agricultural and urban areas. Overall, they show progress being made in many areas, but the EPA, as well as environmental organizations that reviewed the data, said the quality of information provided by states in many cases needs improvement.

The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, or pollution diet, established nutrient and sediment reduction goals to be achieved by all states and tributaries by 2025. It also required states to set interim goals in two-year increments, or milestones.

These milestones are intended to ensure that cleanup efforts stay on track. The current milestones are for 2012–13. The data released this summer reflected progress through 2012; the figures for 2013 will not be available until next year.

Overall, in a summary posted on its Chesapeake Bay TMDL website, the EPA said it “is pleased with implementation progress to date,” though in individual state highlights it suggested areas that could be improved, such as increased staffing, or improving outreach with local jurisdictions.

Two environmental organizations, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Choose Clean Water Coalition, also evaluated progress toward implementing a subset of nutrient control actions reported by each state, and issued a joint report on progress.

“The interim analysis is important because it celebrates the areas where states are exceeding goals, but also shines a light on areas needing improvement,” said CBF President William Baker.

In areas where the reports show states are behind schedule, they can make up shortfalls by overachieving in other areas.

Both the groups, and the EPA, indicated the reporting of information about agricultural and urban runoff controls — where progress was mixed — needs to be improved. The EPA, for instance, said it often is not clear whether the data represents an actual accelerated rate of implementation, or instead reflects increased efforts to better document previously implemented actions that were not reported.

“We are encouraged that states are working to reach their milestones and, in some cases, significant progress has been made,” said Hilary Harp Falk, co-chair of the Choose Clean Water Coalition. “However, after reviewing the data, it is clear that we need verification protocols to help local, state and federal programs ensure that practices are properly designed, installed and maintained over time.”

The Bay Program is working to develop new protocols to ensure that reported nutrient reduction actions are properly installed and not double-counted.

The environmental groups also called for the next set of milestones, which will cover 2014–15, to be reported at either the river basin or county level, instead of only at the state level.

Highlights of the evaluations include:

Delaware

Delaware has already passed its overall 2013 milestone for nitrogen, and is on track to meet its milestone for sediment and phosphorus.

It has already met its 2013 nitrogen and phosphorus goals for wastewater treatment plants.

It has also met its 2013 goals for some agricultural practices, such as wetland restoration and cover crop planting. But it is behind schedule on its goals for installing grass buffers and nutrient application management.

It is also ahead of schedule for installing stormwater ponds and stormwater infiltration practices.

District of Columbia

The District has achieved its overall 2013 milestone for nitrogen and is on track to meet its phosphorus and sediment targets. It has already achieved its 2025 wastewater goal for phosphorus.

The district has also already exceeded its 2013 goals for a number of stormwater control practices, including urban tree planting, reductions in impervious cover, the installation of stormwater infiltration practices and urban stream restoration.

Maryland

Maryland has achieved its overall 2013 targets for nitrogen and sediment. Phosphorus loads increased slightly 2011–12, but the state is still within 1 percent of reaching its 2013 target.

Wastewater treatment plants have already surpassed their 2013 targets for nitrogen and phosphorus.

The construction of animal manure management structures is ahead of schedule, as is the planting of grass buffers. But the planting of traditional cover crops was slightly below the target, as was nutrient application management. The state was on track to meet its stormwater retrofit goals.

Pennsylvania

The state is surpassing its overall 2013 milestone target for phosphorus, and is on track to meet its target for nitrogen, but sediment loads increased slightly in 2011–12, which means that sediment control efforts need to be increased this year.

The state has already achieved its phosphorus goal for wastewater treatment plants.

It was ahead of schedule for installing barnyard runoff management systems. It was well behind schedule on its forest buffer goal, and was also behind on its conservation tillage and nutrient application management goals.

The state had made no reported progress on its urban tree canopy goal, but had exceeded its goal for installing urban stormwater infiltration practices.

New York

New York has achieved its overall milestones for nitrogen and phosphorus, but needs to reduce sediment by an additional 1 percent to meet the 2012 goal.

Reported wastewater discharges increased 2011–12 both because of increased discharges from large treatment plants and improved reporting from smaller facilities, though the totals remained below the 2013 target.

The state has achieved its goal for developing farm conservation plans but needs to do more to achieve its goals for pasture management and for the installation of livestock and poultry waste management systems.

It is behind schedule for erosion and sediment control goals for urban lands.

Virginia

Virginia is on track to meet its overall 2013 milestones for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. It has

already exceeded its milestone goals for nutrient reductions from wastewater treatment plants.

It has exceeded its goal for stream fencing on pasture lands, and is on track to meet its forest buffer goals for 2013. The state is losing ground when it comes to grass buffers.

It has met its 2013 goal for installing traditional stormwater ponds and for urban stream restoration, but is falling short of its two-year goal for the installation of modern stormwater infiltration practices.

West Virginia

The state has achieved its overall 2013 goals for nitrogen and phosphorus, and is on track to meet its goal for sediment. Its wastewater treatment plants have already met their two-year goals for nitrogen and phosphorus.

The state has exceeded its goals for livestock waste management systems and cover crop planting, and is on track to meet forest buffer and streambank fencing goals

It is behind schedule for its goal of implementing nutrient application management on farmland.

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About Karl Blankenship

Karl Blankenship is editor of the Bay Journal and Executive Director of Chesapeake Media Service. He has served as editor of the Bay Journal since its inception in 1991. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Read more articles by Karl Blankenship

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