After talking about it for years, Maryland finally proposed long-overdue regulations on manure pollution by submitting the new phosphorous management tool.

The rivers of the Eastern Shore continue to decline in water quality as fields containing excess chicken manure continue to drain into our waterways.

Eastern Shore families deserve clean and healthy waterways as much as any other Marylander. We have watched the state make tremendous progress cleaning up pollution from wastewater treatment plants, stormwater runoff and other urban and suburban sources. Rural Marylanders shouldn’t have to put up with harmful algae blooms and unsafe rivers contaminated by manure pollution.

We will not be able to clean up our rivers without effectively limiting the phosphorous pollution that has for too long been allowed.

Nobody said this would be easy, but the farm lobby outcry over the proposed regulations seems selfish. Does the industry feel that it has a special right to pollute natural resources that belong to all of us?

No industry has the right to pollute. The plan put forth by the Department of Agriculture includes many concessions to farmers, a very generous phase-in period (six years) and financial subsidies. While this plan is not perfect, it is our best and maybe final chance to save our rivers. We can do this; we must do this.

While it is true that farmers on the Eastern Shore have done a great deal to reduce agricultural pollution, there is more to be done. Because agriculture is — by far — the largest land use on the Eastern Shore, our rivers suffer predominantly from agricultural pollution.

And unfortunately, despite what farmers have done thus far, our rivers continue to get worse not better. Consequently, more needs to be done.

The new phosphorous management tool is science-based, and experts say it could be the biggest opportunity to clean up the Chesapeake Bay in 30 years. We can’t let this opportunity slip away. Please, let us stop bickering. Let us work together to implement this new rule to protect families, communities and rivers from pollution.

Jeffrey Horstman
Miles and Wye Riverkeeper
jeff@midshoreriverkeeper.org