The U.S. Marine Corps is leading the charge on behalf of a healthier Bay. Marine Corps officials, flanked by federal officials from the Chesapeake Bay Program, presented plans April 21 for a $19 million upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant at Marine Corps Base Quantico.

With the announcement, Quantico - located on the Potomac River just south of Washington in Northern Virginia - became the first federal facility in the Chesapeake Bay region to begin a major treatment plant upgrade under a federal agreement to restore and protect the Bay signed last July.

Over the past three years, the Marine Corps has spent about $2 million to maintain compliance with permit limits at the wastewater plant, which has a capacity of 2 million gallons a day. As a result, the plant now operates below authorized discharge limits, making it one of the cleanest facilities in the Bay region. The planned upgrade will increase the plant's capacity by 300,000 gallons per day, which will allow for anticipated growth at the base into the 21st Century.

"The Marine Corps is quite proud of its commitment to the environment and, frankly, Quantico is probably our finest example of how, with the right attitude and some careful planning, we can quickly and effectively transform environmental challenges into success stories," said Col Mark C. Bunton, commander of the base.

The Quantico project includes funds for the installation of Biological Nutrient Removal technology designed to reduce the discharge of nitrogen from sewage treatment plants. BNR converts nitrogen into a harmless gas. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus, also known as nutrients, are the main pollution problem in the Bay and its tributaries. In addition, the upgraded plant will disinfect wastes using an ultraviolet process, eliminating the use of chlorine.

The Quantico upgrade was announced in conjunction with the release of "The First Biennial Progress Report on the Agreement of Federal Agencies on Ecosystem Management in the Chesapeake Bay." The report, issued by the Bay Program, details the progress made under the agreement signed last year by high-level federal officials representing 29 agencies and departments. The agreement outlined 20 specific commitments, including one to upgrade - by the year 2000 - federally owned treatment plants in the Bay region that discharge more than 500,000 gallons of wastewater per day.

There are nearly 1.6 million acres of federally owned land in the Bay watershed, including parks, national forests, fish hatcheries, reservoirs, research facilities and military installations.

The report outlines the federal expertise and resources being devoted to the reduction of nutrient and toxic pollution; restoration of habitat; coordination of research; the restoration of the Anacostia River; the use of national service for work on federal lands; and assistance and services to farmers, citizens and local governments.

Included in the report is a list of 22 specific environmental restoration or educational projects, on both private and public properties around the Bay, that have been completed by the National Civilian Community Corps.

For a copy of the report, contact the Chesapeake Bay Program Office, 1-800-YOUR-BAY.