Bay Journal

January 1997 - Volume 6 - Number 10

New air rules would help Bay

For more than a century, coal and oil have driven the nation's engines of commerce, fueling everything from trains, planes and cars to steel mills, power plants and chain saws. But fossil fuels have had a dark side: pollution.

Two decades of clean air laws have knocked down levels of one contaminant after another: Sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide emissions are down 37 percent; lead is down 78 percent; and benzene is down 38 percent. The list goes on.

But research increasingly has indicated that human and environmental health is threatened by a pollutant that was largely overlooked just a decade ago: Nitrogen oxides, or NOx. Despite drops in other air pollutants, NOx emissions since 1980 have remained mostly stagnant at about 23 million tons a year. ...

Navy eyes Patuxent to moor ships

A Navy proposal to moor some of the country's largest military ships in Maryland's Patuxent River is drawing opposition from watermen, politicians and environmentalists.

"I don't want the river to become a junkyard," said Delegate John F. Slade, whose St. Mary's County district is bordered by the river. "We want to maintain our vistas and our scenic views. It's going to be an eyesore."

The river is now home to a modest fleet of pleasure boats, charter fishing vessels and the work boats used by watermen who harvest crabs, oysters and fish from the waters off southern Maryland. ...

Report blames Va. DEQ for decline in water quality, enforcement

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is poorly managed and fails to protect the state's waters, said a report released by a General Assembly watchdog agency.

The DEQ has backed away from punishing polluters in favor of coaxing them to comply with environmental laws, with mixed results, said the report issued in December by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission.

The amount of civil fines levied against water polluters has dropped from more than $325,000 in 1992 to $4,000 in the fiscal year ending in June, the report said. ...

Va. announces funds for sewage plant updates, nutrient reduction

Virginia Gov. George Allen announced a package of initiatives to help fund sewage treatment plant upgrades and other nutrient reduction efforts needed to help achieve the state's commitment to a 40 percent nutrient reduction to the Chesapeake Bay.

The announcement followed calls from many lawmakers and local government officials for the state to share the costs of implementing tributary strategies being written to guide nutrient reduction efforts on major rivers. A draft strategy for the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers released last fall indicated that nutrient reduction efforts in Virginia's portion of those watersheds could cost up to $193 million, mostly for sewage treatment plant upgrades. ...

Report questions Va. commitment to tributary strategies

Virginia is unlikely to reach a 40 percent nutrient reduction in its portion of the Potomac River by the turn of the century, and there is "great doubt" the state will achieve that Bay commitment anytime in coming years, according to a legislative watchdog agency.

The report, released by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission in December, said the slow pace at which the Potomac strategy was developed raised doubts about the state's commitment to reaching the decade-old nutrient reduction goal. ...

Bay, business profit with partnership

In the last few decades, the Chesapeake Paper Product Company's 75-year-old plant in West Point, Va., has slashed its emissions to air and water.

"We are, in some cases, probably 10 percent of what a new mill would be in some areas," said Larry Price, manager of manufacturing services at the plant. "We are very low compared to what would be allowed in a permit issued to a new mill at this time."

The plant has done so much to reduce pollution, the Izaak Walton League in 1992 recognized the facility for its contributions to help the Bay. ...

Releases fall 44% with TRI; but many still unsatisfied: Toxicity, usage figures urges for more complete picture of risk level

When a congressional subcommittee in 1985 tried to figure out how many millions of pounds of toxic chemicals industries were releasing into the environment, it found itself under fire for using scare tactics.

Four years later, when information about releases of potentially harmful chemicals were made public for the first time, members of Rep. Henry Waxman's subcommittee learned just how wild their estimates had been.

The numbers weren't in the millions at all; they were measured in billions of pounds. "The magnitude of this problem far exceeds our worst fears," Waxman said at the time. ...

CBF seeks 50% reduction in toxics use in Bay region

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, saying that portions of the Chesapeake and its tributaries are "seriously impaired" by toxic pollution, has called for a 50 percent reduction in toxics use in the Bay region over the next decade.

The foundation plans a campaign in coming months to press states to better enforce water laws regarding toxics while educating citizens and businesses about the importance of reducing the use of toxics to protect the Bay, its tributaries and public health.

"Our governmental agencies are addressing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to toxic chemical pollution," said CBF President William Baker. ...

To learn more

The law creating the Toxics Release Inventory specifically required that the information be made available to the public.

TRI information is available in several places, including:

  • The EPA. TRI information is available through its World Wide Web homepage at

    Assistance in accessing and using the TRI data is available by calling (202) 260-1531. General information about the program, including reports, are available by calling the toll-free Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Information Hotline at 1-800-535-0202. ...

Bay Program Toxics of Concern

The Bay Program has identified 14 "Toxics of Concern" that are considered to be the most harmful to aquatic life in the Chesapeake.

They include: atrazine; benzo[a]anthracene; benzo[a]pyrene; cadmium; chlordane; chyrsene; chromium; copper; fluoranthene; lead; mercury; naphthalene; PCBs; and tributyltin.

The Bay Program has a goal of reducing releases of those chemicals - as reported on the Toxics Release Inventory - 75 percent by the turn of the century.

Not all of the Toxics of Concern are on the TRI list. Through 1994, the TRI included eight Toxics of Concern: lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, copper, chlordane, naphthalene and PCBs. ...

Feds come clean, release data

The 1994 TRI data were the first to reflect releases from federal facilities.The watershed's 25 federal facilities reported releases and transfers of 834,529 pounds of TRI chemicals in 1994.

That included:

  • 167,635 pounds from five facilities in the District of Columbia
  • 205,019 pounds from nine facilities in Maryland
  • 10,400 pounds from one facility in New York
  • 372,597 pounds from seven facilities in Virginia

There were no federal facilities in the Bay watershed portions of West Virginia and Delaware that were required to report. ...

Terms of toxics disposal


A release is an on-site discharge of a toxic chemical to the environment. This includes emissions to the air, discharges to bodies of water, releases at the facility to land, as well as contained disposal in underground injection wells.

Releases to Air

Releases to air are reported either as stack or "fugitive" emissions. Stack emissions are releases to air that occur through confined air streams, such as stacks, vents, ducts or pipes. Fugitive emissions are all releases to the air that are not released through a confined air stream. They include equipment leaks, evaporative losses from surface impoundments and spills, and releases from building ventilation systems. ...

Toxics releases in Bay fell 55% since ‘88

The amount of toxic chemicals released from major industrial and chemical facilities in the Bay watershed has declined by 55.2 percent since 1988, approaching one of the Bay Program's turn-of-the-century toxics reduction goals.

The watershed's reduction outpaced the national 44 percent drop in toxics releases during the same period, according the EPA's annual Toxics Release Inventory.

To help reduce potential risks posed by toxic chemicals in the Chesapeake, the Bay Program has a goal of reducing TRI releases 65 percent by 2000. The reductions are being measured from a 1988 baseline, the first year for which reliable TRI data were compiled. ...

Economic analysis to include Bay

Next summer, when the EPA presents a detailed economic analysis of its proposed new ozone standard, the Chesapeake Bay is likely to figure into the equation.

When the agency issues its final rule officially setting the new standard, it will also present a Regulatory Impact Analysis which estimates the cost of complying with the rule, as well as the value of its benefits. The cost of the proposed ozone and particulate rules is estimated by the EPA to be between $6.5 billion and $8.5 billion a year. ...

Acid rain rule cites benefits for Chesapeake

A new EPA rule aimed at reducing acid rain pollutants emitted from most of the power plants in the nation also recognizes, for the first time, that controlling air pollution will also help the Chesapeake Bay.

The rule is aimed at cutting nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from coal-fired power plants by about 900,000 tons per year beginning in the year 2000. That represents a 15 percent reduction from current utility levels and a 5 percent nationwide reduction from all NOx sources.

But the action, announced Dec. 16, is also the first time that an air pollution rule has cited water quality benefits for coastal waters, including the Chesapeake Bay, as among the reasons for imposing a new air pollution control technology. ...


Ozone is the prime ingredient of smog in cities. Ozone is not emitted directly into the air, but is formed in the atmosphere when nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons mix in the presence of sunlight on hot days. Although it occurs naturally in the stratosphere to provide a protective layer high above the Earth, ozone at ground level contributes to smog problems.

Existing Standard

Ozone should not exceed 120 parts per billion in the air for more than one hour.

Proposed Standard ...


Particulate matter is the term used for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Course particles (larger than 2.5 microns) come from windblown dust, grinding operations, etc. Fine particles, (less than 2.5 microns) come from fuel combustion, agricultural burning, wood stoves, etc. These fine particles are so small that several thousand of them could fit on the period at the end of a sentence. They are a health concern because they easily lodge in the deepest recesses of the lungs. On a smoggy day, a million tiny particles can be inhaled into one's mouth and nose in a single breath. ...

Tiny parts have large role in pollution

On some clear, cloudless days over the Chesapeake, it is impossible to see from one side to the other because the air is packed with so many microscopic particles that they block the view.

"It's primarily sulfates," explained Joel Baker, a researcher at the University of Maryland's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, who has studied the impacts of air pollution on the Bay. "Sulfur dioxide is converted into sulfate particles, and it gets real hazy."

That's a problem related to fine particles - or "particulates" - in the air that people can see. But tiny particles also pose problems to the Chesapeake that are less visible to the naked eye. ...

How to air your views on ozone, particulate rules

The EPA has established a new, toll-free telephone number and electronic mail addresses to accept public comment on its recent proposal to strengthen air quality standards for ground-level ozone (smog) and particulates (soot). Public comments received by phone and e-mail will have the same legal standing as written public comments and testimony at public hearings. The toll-free phone number is: 1-888-TELL-EPA (1-888-835-5372). (Note: This is not 1-800 but "1-888.")

The comment deadline is Feb. 18. ...

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