Portions of the hundreds of lakes, rivers and streams in the Bay watershed fail to meet their water quality standards. Under the Clean Water Act, states are required to write detailed cleanup plans, known as TMDLs, for each of those impaired waterways. If they fail to do so, the EPA must do it.

In addition, the Bay, itself, was recently listed as impaired, and will need an enforceable TMDL unless it is “cleaned up” before 2011. The Bay is unlikely to meet existing water quality standards in either Virginia or Maryland that call for water quality conditions which probably surpass those that existed before the region was even settled. As a result, the Bay states will probably need to set new standards before the Bay can be removed from the list.

A TMDL — or Total Maximum Daily Load — is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still meet water quality standards. In other words, it is the sum of the allowable loads of a single pollutant from all contributing sources which includes a margin of safety and consideration of seasonal variations. In addition, a TMDL calculates the reductions needed to meet water quality standards and allocates those reductions among pollution sources in the watershed.

The Bay Program is seeking to head off the development of a TMDL by cleaning up the Bay so that it can be removed from the impaired waters list by 2010.

To do so, it is planning to:

  • Agree, in 2001, to new environmental endpoints and criteria that will constitute a “clean Bay;”
  • Set, in 2001, nutrient and sediment loading reductions needed to achieve those endpoints and allocate loading reductions to tributaries;
  • Initiate, in 2001, a regulatory process to revise state water quality standards to conform with the new criteria, or environmental endpoints;
  • Complete, by 2003, in the Bay states, the process of adopting the revised water quality standards for the Bay and its tidal tributaries;
  • Evaluate, in 2005, the process to determine if further refinements are needed in the nutrient and sediment reduction goals;
  • Achieve, by 2010, necessary nutrient and sediment reductions to meet water quality standards; or
  • If unsuccessful, establish in 2011, a TMDL to meet water quality standards.

BAY TMDL Meeting Set

To help coordinate issues related to the development of a TMDL-related nutrient control strategy for the entire watershed, a Chesapeake Bay Water Quality Steering Committee has been formed.

It includes representatives from all six states in the watershed, the District of Columbia, the EPA, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin.

The steering committee’s job is to integrate cooperative and statutory programs needed to clean up the Bay, share information and resolve conflicts among the states and communicate with the public and stakeholders.

The next meeting of the committee is 10 a.m., Jan. 19 at Bellevue State Park, DE. The park is located off the Marsh Road Exit (Route 3) of Interstate 95 near Wilmington.

The public is invited. For information, contact the Bay Program Office, 1-800-968-7229.