MD tops list of states to get pfiesteria grant

Maryland will receive more of a federal grant than any other state affected by a microorganism suspected of killing fish and threatening human health.

Maryland will get more than $1 million this year from a $7 million Centers for Disease Control and Prevention package for the study of Pfiesteria piscicida.

State officials intend to use the money to monitor watermen and other people who frequent the state's rivers and streams to see whether they show symptoms of the afflictions associated with pfiesteria.

Pfiesteria and similar organisms are believed to become toxic when they encounter phosphorus and certain other pollutants.

"Maryland was the first state to recognize that pfiesteria has implications for public health," Gov. Parris Glendening said. "Our congressional delegation supported us every step of the way." The money was put into a House appropriations bill last September by Representative Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Southern Maryland.

Representatives Wayne Gilchrest of the Eastern Shore and Michael Castle of Delaware, both Republicans, co-sponsored the measure.

"This money and the leadership from the Centers for Disease Control is an important step in our region's ability to understand and fight this terrible environmental disease and the impact it has on humans who are in contact with it," Hoyer said in a statement.

Delaware, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia will also receive money.

Director of VA DEQ dies

Thomas L. Hopkins, director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, died April 6, Gov. Jim Gilmore's office said. Hopkins, 49, died at the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals, where he had been in critical condition for several weeks from an undisclosed illness, an aide to Gilmore said.

"Roxane and I are deeply saddened," Gilmore said in a prepared statement.

"The people of Virginia were served well by his dedication and tireless efforts on behalf of the state's natural resources." Because of Hopkins' illness, Gilmore appointed Dennis H. Treacy as acting DEQ director in mid-March.

"Tom's death is a great loss for all of us," Treacy said. "His constant efforts on behalf of Virginia's environment will serve as a lasting example at DEQ."

Hopkins became DEQ director in June 1996. He previously served as director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation and as deputy secretary of Natural Resources, assisting in overseeing Virginia's natural resource agencies, under former Governor George Allen.

"Tom will be remembered for his devotion to the mission he established for DEQ, to protect the environment for the health and well-being of Virginia's citizens," Treacy said. "Every action he took as director was intended to meet that goal."

Hog manure spill fouls trout stream tributary

 Pennsylvania officials are investigating a hog manure spill in Cumberland County that killed most of the fish in a tributary of the Yellow Breeches Creek, one of the premier trout streams in the East.

Sandy Roderick, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the mid-April spill did not appear to have affected the Yellow Breeches. "The township put in dikes and got some pumps going," she said. "They pretty much kept it out of the Yellow Breeches." The farm, a 200-acre operation with between 2,000 and 3,000 feeder hogs, is located between Boiling Springs and Mount Holly Springs, according to Noah D. Rudolph, who said he recently sold the farm to his son. "We didn't want to purposely pollute any stream," he said.

Roderick said the spill occurred when a 5,000-gallon manure tanker truck operated by the farm owner, Jonathan R. Rudolph, became mired in soft ground while he was preparing to spread the manure.

She said Rudolph dumped half his load to lighten the truck and was able to get it moving. But he loaded up again with manure, Roderick said, and the truck became stuck a second time - so the farmer again dumped half his load.

Rudolph could face more than $5,000 in fines from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, commission spokesman Dan Tredinnick said. The DEP and the commission typically set one fine together - the DEP for the water quality damage and the commission for wildlife lost.

The DEP might not have considered a fine if the farmer had not gone back a second time to refill his truck and dump it again, Roderick said.

Northern Virginia begins vehicle emissions program

 Northern Virginia's new vehicle emissions inspection program, Air Check Virginia, is now performing vehicle inspections. The Department of Environmental Quality has been phasing in this program for the past few weeks.

Air Check Virginia is a decentralized test-and-repair program that continues Virginia's commitment to improving air quality. Most vehicles in Northern Virginia will now undergo a new emissions inspection procedure on a treadmill-like device called a dynamometer. Vehicle owners will still receive inspections, and repairs if necessary, at neighborhood facilities.

About 370 applications have been received from inspection facilities to participate in Air Check Virginia, and about 250 of them have the new inspection equipment installed. The DEQ has begun issuing permits to these facilities so they can perform inspections.

The program covers vehicles in Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Stafford counties, and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park.

Because the dynamometer tests are more effective at monitoring emissions of nitrogen oxides than older tailpipe tests, the program should help the Bay, as well as local air quality. Nitrogen oxides are a major source of nitrogen pollution to the Chesapeake.

Worth Noting:

  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge recently announced 27 grants totaling $3.7 million for the planning, acquisition and protection of critical habitat and open space across the commonwealth. The grants were made available to land trusts and conservancies through the Keystone Land Trust Grant Program, administered by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The grants, announced in March, included several projects in the Bay watershed, including land along streams in Lancaster County...
  • The Bay Program announced that Maryland and Virginia recently signed agreements that will make it easier for nutrient planning specialists to work in both states. An agreement with Pennsylvania is expected this spring. The goal is to increase the pool of regionally certified planners while ensuring that technical standards for designing nutrient management plans are consistent regionwide. "By signing the agreement, Maryland and Virginia are making it easier for agricultural business and industry to contribute to the protection of water quality across the Chesapeake Bay region," said Fred Samadani, director of the Maryland Department of Agriculture's Nutrient Management Program...
  • Ducks Unlimited and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation announced in February that they have committed up to $5.5 million to support the new Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program in Maryland. The program will provide funds to restore, protect and enhance wetland, riparian and upland habitats throughout the state. The money from the nonprofit organizations is in addition to the $190 million the state and federal governments have committed to the initiative, which  makes cost-share payments to farmers and landowners who implement the conservation practices...
  • A longtime Bay Program participant is moving on to help protect waterways worldwide. David Brubaker, a member of the Bay Program's Citizens Advisory Committee and its former chair, is becoming executive director of the Global Rivers Environmental Education Network, based in Ann Arbor, MI. Brubaker had been with Penn-Ag Industries, an agricultural consulting firm in Lancaster County, PA, and had been active in working to resolve issues concerning animal waste both here and in Europe...
  • Some upstream help for the Bay cleanup maybe on the way. New York Gov. George Pataki recently announced nearly $2.7 million in aid will go to fund projects to help farmers protect waterways from agricultural pollution and runoff. The money, from the state Environmental Protection Fund, will go to 33 projects across the state including water quality assessment, runoff buffers and watershed protection ...
  • Also in upstream news, West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection director, John Caffrey, is planning to step down, but his plan to groom a former coal industry executive as his successor has environmentalists bristling. Caffrey announced that he plans to step down in May and that he would be replaced by McDowell County native Michael Miano, his recently hired No. 2 man. "I've maintained all along that the coal industry controls the DEP," said Norm Steenstra, executive director of West Virginia Citizen Action Group. "We've almost come to expect these kinds of appointments." Gov. Cecil Underwood said he expected "criticism from extreme environmentalists ... My feeling is that it's good to have someone who understands the industry and any problems it might be facing."