Campaign promotes cutting fertilizers to aid Chesapeake Bay

A humor-based advertising program developed for the Bay Program moved into the Hampton Roads and Richmond areas this spring, urging their residents to “Save the Crabs...then eat ’em” by reducing lawn fertilization.

The Chesapeake Club is an outreach initiative aimed at getting people to reduce fertilizer use on their lawn to help benefit the Bay and the creatures that live in it—particularly blue crabs.

After running in the District of Columbia area the last two springs, the Department of Conservation and Recreation brought the campaign to the two cities in cooperation with the federal and local governments.

“While many people are concerned about local water quality and the Bay, they aren’t aware that their actions—such as how they fertilize their lawn—can have an impact,” said Joseph Maroon, director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“This campaign helps to show that link and offers homeowners one simple way that they can help improve our waters.”

Follow-up surveys from the D.C. advertising campaigns showed the message resonated with the public, with some people saying they switched from fertilizing their lawns in the spring to the fall when it poses less of a threat to water quality—a key message of the initiative.

In addition to television and newspaper ads, lawn care companies participating in the Chesapeake Club offer customers an environmentally friendly treatment. Restaurants hand out coasters and information to customers explaining the Bay’s pollution and its effects on seafood.

The club’s website offers additional tips on Bay-friendly lawn care while providing useful information on enjoying the area’s rivers, streams and nearby Bay.

The Richmond and Hampton Roads campaigns cost about $235,000 and are jointly funded by the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Chesapeake Bay Program Implementation Grant funds. The DCR is coordinating the effort.

For information about the campaign, including sample ads and a list of restaurants and lawn care providers supporting the effort, visit www.chesapeakeclub.org.

MD Senate passes emissions bill

The Maryland Senate voted in February to join California and 11 other states in tightening emissions standards for new cars, despite worries from some that the move would give control to a distant state.

The House had already voted to adopt California emissions standards for new cars starting in model year 2011. After slight differences between the two bills are worked out, the measure will go to Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has said he supports the idea.

Car dealers opposed the bills, saying they would make new cars more expensive. “We’re giving up this sovereignty to another state that we have no control over, that’s so far away,” argued Republican Sen. Allan Kittleman.

Democrats replied that Maryland is powerless to write emissions rules for cars—the choices are the federal standards or California standards. The bill passed 38-9.

Some Republicans joined in supporting the bill, including former Senate Republican Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus of Somerset County. Stoltzfus said that drivers should make changes the way agriculture has made changes to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake. “Agriculture, in my opinion, has taken an unfair beating,” he said.

VA approves $250 million for Bay

The Virginia General Assembly and Gov. Tim Kaine in late February authorized selling up to $250 million in bonds to support wastewater treatment plant upgrades needed to meet Bay restoration goals.

“This is a giant step toward achieving Virginia’s regional Bay cleanup goals and will mean cleaner rivers and a healthier Chesapeake Bay for all Virginians,” said Ann Jennings, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Virginia executive director.

The bond funding will help localities modernize wastewater plants and will result in approximately 4 million fewer pounds of nitrogen pollution entering Virginia waterways.

VA recycled water program closer

A water recycling program that would allow treated wastewater to be used for irrigating parks, lawns and crops; cooling industrial equipment; washing cars; and flushing office toilets has moved one step closer to reality.

For the past seven years, Virginia officials have been working on regulations for recycled water that would protect public health and the environment. In March, the State Water Control Board granted preliminary approval to the proposed program’s long-awaited set of rules.

After a public comment period and some possible tweaking of the rules, officials hope for a final board vote in September and a finished product in place by the end of the year.

The draft program is aimed at conserving drinking water supplies and curbing the amount of wastewater discharged into creeks and rivers that contributes to pollution, said Valerie Rourke, a water programs manager with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

The program would prohibit recycled water from being used for residential purposes inside a home, although it could be sprayed from an outdoor hose to irrigate lawns or wash the family car, Rourke said.

Under the system, tainted water from homeowners’ toilets and sinks would wind up at a local sewage treatment plant, where bacteria and contaminants are filtered and neutralized. The treated wastewater would be piped to a customer, such as a golf course, a farmer or an oil refinery, rather than being discharged back into the open environment. Customers could use the water for many daily tasks, but not for drinking or cooking.

Less water would have to be withdrawn from lakes, rivers and wells, thus conserving these raw supplies and better protecting the state from drought.

The proposal breaks down the levels of disinfection into two categories:

Å Level One disinfection is described as clean enough to eat shellfish from and would be required for irrigating crops and public parks, stoking commercial air conditioners and toilets, and fighting fires.

Å Level Two disinfection is described as clean enough for humans to swim in and would be used to irrigate turf farms, make concrete, wash streets, water livestock and cool boilers and industrial equipment.

In California and Florida, reuse programs started more than a decade ago primarily as environmentally friendly ways to irrigate farms and cropland. Raw water was becoming scarce in both states, and they needed a method to feed their substantial agriculture bases.

If approved, Virginia’s program would likely progress slowly, because providing the recycled water to users would require the laying of new pipes.

EPA cracks down on marine, train emissions

The EPA in March issued new rules to slash emissions from diesel locomotives and marine vessels by 2030. The rules will require an 80 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions, a key ingredient in smog and also a major Bay pollutant. Emissions of fine particulate matter must be reduced 90 percent.

The EPA has already tightened diesel emissions from cars, sport utility vehicles, trucks and non-road vehicles. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson called the new rules “the last piece of this clean-diesel puzzle.”

The rule affects about 40,000 vessels, but not foreign ships that make up most ships at U.S. ports. It will affect 21,000 diesel locomotives.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, the engines covered by the regulations emit pollution equivalent to 150 coal-fired power plants.

“By tackling the greatest remaining source of diesel emissions, we’re helping our nation’s clean air progress move full stream ahead,” Johnson said. The EPA estimates that the health benefits of the rules outweigh costs by 20-to-1.

MD Senate passes bill for low-phosphorus dish detergent

The Maryland Senate in March voted 41-5 to pass a bill that would take nearly all of the phosphorus out of dishwashing detergent sold in the state, a measure aimed at reducing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

The Senate voted 41-5 for the bill, which would require dishwashing detergent sold in Maryland to contain less than half a percent of phosphorus by December 2008.

State officials estimate the bill, which would require the change by December 2008 if the House goes along, could reduce phosphorus from the state by 3 percent.

The bill ran into resistance from the detergent industry, which contends more time is needed to make the change. They suggested putting the change off until 2010.

Phosphates were banned in the 1980s from laundry detergents in many states.

There has been more resistance to banning them from dishwasher detergent because of arguments that phosphate-free alternatives don’t perform as well. But the March 2005 issue of Consumer Reports highly rated several phosphate-free brands.

Lynnhaven off-limits to boat wastes

The Lynnhaven River, a Bay tributary in Virginia Beach, was declared a “no discharge zone” for boat waste by the State Water Control Board in March.

The designation will aid efforts to reduce levels of bacteria pollution in the waterway.

It became the second waterbody in the state, and the first in Virginia’s portion of the Bay watershed, to receive the designation which bans discharges of human wastes from boats.

Boaters will instead have to pump their stored wastes into a sewage tank on land or at a marina.