Bay Journal

September 1997 - Volume 7 - Number 6

Clean air actions worth millions of dollars to the Bay

New air pollution control initiatives aimed at protecting public health from smog and soot would also save the Chesapeake region more than $360 million in Bay cleanup costs while also providing billions of dollars in benefits to other coastal water bodies, according to a new report.

Without reductions in nitrogen oxide emissions that will result from new air pollution control efforts, the new EPA report assumes that states would have to seek even more pollution reductions from farmers, homeowners, city stormwater systems and others who contribute to the nitrogen-laden runoff that fouls the Bay and other coastal waters. ...

VA task force studies runoff from ‘plasticulture’

Environmentalists want Virginia to protect creeks that run through the state's remote Eastern Shore from pesticides and other sediments that wash off plastic-covered tomato fields.

Farms that use so-called "plasticulture" should be regulated by the Department of Environmental Quality as if they were industrial polluters, speakers said at an Aug. 12 public hearing before a General Assembly task force.

The task force is studying whether current regulations adequately protect estuaries from plasticulture toxins. Of Virginia's 11,859 acres under plastic, 77 percent are on the Eastern Shore. ...

Scientists seeking clues in Pocomoke mystery

For scientists reviewing the Pocomoke problem, the situation is a classic whodunit.

Was it nutrients from farms? Or was it naturally occurring nutrients? Was it toxic runoff? Acid water? Was it something else? Or a conspiracy, with several suspects acting together?

Collecting and examining evidence that leads to a verdict is going to take time, they say.

"It will take laboratory work, experimentation and detective work," said Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science, who chairs a technical advisory committee that is reviewing the state's Pocomoke investigation. ...

Fish kills, illnesses raise Pfiesteria worries in MD

A single-cell alga that can only be identified with special, high-powered microscopes has sent shock waves through Maryland, cutting into seafood sales, tourism and raising public health concerns.

The so-called "cell from hell," Pfiesteria piscicida-or something very much like it-is being blamed for a kill involving about 15,000 fish from Aug. 6-9 in Maryland's Pocomoke River, a Bay tributary where watermen have been reporting high numbers of fish with ugly lesions since last fall.

Concern escalated after more than a dozen people, including three state employees, became ill after contacting water from the river during and before a fish kill. Symptoms included blisters, peeling skin and loss of memory. The illnesses were being examined by state health officials. ...

Migratory Canada geese show signs of rebounding

As the hunting moratorium on migratory Canada geese enters its third season, biologists believe they are finally seeing a sign that the population may be on the rebound.

Aerial surveys of arctic breeding grounds this year found 63,200 pairs of nesting geese, a sharp increase from the 46,000 counted last year and more than twice the record low of 29,000 seen in 1995.

Unlike 1996, geese this year found ideal nesting conditions. Last year, the migrating birds found unusually icy conditions in their breeding grounds, and although more geese nested than in 1995, biologists said reproduction was low. ...

Smithfield gets record fine for polluting Virginia river

One of the largest pork companies on the East Coast was fined $12.6 million - the largest water pollution fine ever- for dumping hog waste into a Chesapeake Bay tributary.

U.S. District Judge Rebecca B. Smith ruled Aug. 8 that Smithfield Foods Inc. was liable for nearly 7,000 violations of the Clean Water Act since 1991. She said she wanted at least a portion of the fine to be used for Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. The ruling resulted from an EPA lawsuit that accused Smithfield of polluting the Pagan River and destroying documents to cover it up. ...

Sojourn canoeists do the ‘Chenango Tango’

New York was the host of the kickoff for the annual Susquehanna Sojourn, a weeklong canoe trip that ran June 21-29 and was designed to draw attention to the Susquehanna River and its tributaries. This year's event, "The Chenango Tango," which covered 98 miles, started in the Chenango River in Sherburne, NY, and ending in Sayre, PA, where the first Sojourn began in 1991.

The Chenango Tango also drew the most Sojourn participants ever, with a total of 181 canoeists. The one-day high was June 29, with 95 paddlers participating. A total of 36 participants paddled the entire length of the trip. Informative stops took place along the way. ...

Biologists hope to return trumpeters to Bay using ‘Fly Away Home’ method

It may not sound like much to most people, but some biologists are hoping that a small ultralight aircraft is playing a tune that will bring back the past.

Sometime this fall, they hope the ultralight will lead a band of trumpeter swans, which have been reared to follow the aircraft's engine since before they were hatched, on a flight from Virginia to Maryland's Eastern Shore.

If the seven birds follow, it will be the critical first step in an effort to restore a species to the Bay region that was wiped out in the Eastern United States more than a century ago. ...

Gore insists tougher air standards are attainable without harming growth

Air pollution regulations to protect children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems can be met without harming economic growth, Vice President Gore said at an Aug. 17 White House ceremony which put the EPA's new air quality standards into effect.

Gore said he is confident "the twin goals of cleaner air and a stronger economy" can be attained as long as states and businesses have adequate time and flexibility to meet the new standards.

But on Capitol Hill, lawmakers from both parties predicted the EPA regulations will immediately put hundreds of counties into violation of federal health standards and cause businesses to abandon or avoid counties because of fears they would have to adopt costly controls. ...

Northeast states urges timely action on air

Pennsylvania and seven other Northeast states have called upon the EPA to order large power plants and industries in the Midwest and South to reduce pollution that drifts into their states.

Specifically, they want dramatic reductions in emissions of nitrogen oxides, which contribute to the formation of summertime smog. NOx is also a major source of nitrogen to the Bay, so if the EPA acts on the state's petitions, it could speed the benefits of air pollution reductions to the Bay.

The EPA had already indicated that it would act this fall to curb emissions from upwind states. But the agency typically allows states to devise their own strategies for meeting air pollution goals. States may, for example, choose to focus on auto emissions rather than those from industry or power plants. ...

Chesapeake Bay Watershed & NOx Airshed

The Chesapeake Bay drains a 64,000-square-mile watershed that covers parts of six states. But the air pollution that contributes to the Bay's nutrient problem may originate from hundreds of miles outside the watershed.

In recent years, a Chesapeake Bay "airshed" has been defined using the EPA's Regional Atmospheric Deposition Model. The model simulated nitrogen oxide emissions in the Eastern United States and their movement during various weather conditions throughout the year.

That helped to identify areas where significant portions of emissions result in nitrogen deposition to the Bay and its watershed. The resulting "airshed" is 5.5 times larger than the watershed, or about 350,000 square miles. ...

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