Bay Journal

December 2000 - Volume 10 - Number 9

Report seeks new policies to protect forests

An early English settler in Pennsylvania rendered a gloomy verdict on the landscape he found upon his arrival. “Penn's Woods,” as the land was known, was “not a land of prospects. There is too much wood.”

The disillusioned settler found the forest a dark and foreboding place, where one often could not see the light of day. When someone climbed to the top of a hill for a view, he saw “nothing but an undulating surface of impenetrable forest.”

Today, people aren’t concerned about having “too much wood” in the Bay region, but rather losing what’s left. ...

Reservoir’s customers object to Carroll County rezoning plans

Plans to rezone nearly 500 acres of land that drain to Carroll County’s massive Liberty Reservoir are raising objections from Baltimore County and Baltimore City, which rely on the reservoir for drinking water.

Carroll County commissioners are seeking the zoning changes in the watershed as part of a broader effort to attract light industry to the mostly rural area northwest of Baltimore.

But officials from Baltimore city and county — including Mayor Martin O’Malley and County Executive C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger — say the plan will seriously threaten the quality of drinking water for 1.8 million people in the metropolitan area. ...

Business for the Bay honors winners of Bay Excellence Awards

The Chesapeake Executive Council in October announced the recipients of its Businesses for the Bay Excellence Awards for 2000. The annual awards, started in 1998, recognize voluntary efforts by business and government for their voluntary efforts to reduce the amount of pollution entering the Chesapeake Bay. The theme for the 2000 awards was “Moving Toward Zero Release.”

The winners are:

  • Ted Jett, of Merck & Co. of Elkton, VA received the Mentor of the Year Award. Jett has led efforts to reduce environmental releases from his plant by more than 80 percent in the last 10 years. He is a member of Virginia’s Pollution Prevention Advisory Committee and serves as chairman of the Virginia Manufacturers Association’s Environmental Affairs Committee, where he participates in peer-to-peer mentoring programs.


U.S. Supreme Court considers compliance costs for clean air rules

U.S. Supreme Court justices voiced skepticism during a Nov. 7 hearing about ordering the federal government to change decades of clean air policy and begin considering compliance costs — not just health benefits — in setting nationwide air quality standards.

The case, considered one of the most significant environmental cases before the court in years, was brought by several industry groups and the states of Ohio, Michigan and West Virginia.

They charge that the EPA overstepped its authority in issuing strict new air quality standards in 1997, and contend that the agency must weigh the cost of reducing harmful emissions against the benefits of improved air quality. Ohio officials have estimated the state’s industries might have to spend $2 billion a year to implement those standards. ...

Virginia utilitly agrees to cut emissions 70% at 8 plants

Dominion Virginia Power has agreed to cut emissions from eight coal-burning plants by 70 percent to settle federal and state lawsuits alleging the company violated clean air laws, and contributed to air pollution and acid rain in the Northeast.

As part of the agreement, the utility is expected to spend $1.2 billion over the next 14 years to control pollution.

Overall, the utility is to reduce the emissions of nitrogen oxides from about 105,000 tons per year to 30,000 tons. The phase-in will begin in 2004 and is to be completed by 2013. Nitrogen oxides contribute to acid rain, smog and water quality problems in the Chesapeake Bay. ...

MD increases funds for farmers developing nutrient plans

Maryland is increasing the amount it pays farmers to control farm pollution, which has been blamed for poor water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

Under the new plan, the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share Program will reimburse farmers up to 87.5 percent of the cost of hiring a private, certified consultant to prepare a nutrient-management plan for their farm.

The cost-sharing plan has a limit of $750 for small fruit and vegetable farms, those covering 25 acres or less, and $3,500 for grain farms of more than 1,000 acres, said Ed Sanders, administrator of the state program. ...

VA to exceed nonpoint reduction goals for 2 rivers

Virginia officials say runoff control efforts, mainly by farmers, will help the state exceed part of its nutrient reduction goal for the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers by its deadline at the end of the year.

Its nutrient reduction strategy called for 3.47 million pounds of nitrogen reductions and 560,000 pounds of phosphorus reductions from “nonpoint” sources, such as the runoff from farmlands and city streets.

Based on actions taken so far, the state estimates it has slightly surpassed that goal. Efforts so far should keep 3.6 million pounds of nitrogen and 620,000 pounds of phosphorus out of the rivers annually. ...

Maryland allows Bethlehem Steel to exceed pollutants allowed in permit

Maryland officials have allowed Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point plant to dump thousands more pounds of pollutants a month into a Chesapeake Bay tributary than its permit allows, according to state documents.

The plant’s 15-year-old permit — required under the federal Clean Water Act — has never been enforced, The (Baltimore) Sun reported.

Bethlehem Steel has been allowed to operate under a side agreement with the state that allowed the Sparrows Point plant to dump zinc, chromium and lead into Bear Creek off the Patapsco River at much higher levels. All three are among the Bay Program’s list of “Chemicals of Concern” because of the threat they pose to aquatic life. ...

Great Lakes ban some mixing zones, broader Bay action pending

The EPA in November announced final rules to ban mixing zones for bioaccumulative chemicals in the Great Lakes — the first volley in a growing effort to curtail the use of areas beyond discharge pipes to dilute pollutants to acceptable levels.

The Bay Program is poised next year to launch its own effort to phase out most mixing zones over the next decade, but officials say their voluntary program will be more sweeping than the mandatory requirements in the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes regulations affect 22 toxic chemicals, some of which — such as PCBs, DDT and chlordane — are already banned. Also, the Great Lakes rule applies only to chemicals that bioaccumulate in the food chain. ...

Oysters stolen from Choptank study reefs

Thieves wiped out three oysters reefs created for scientists to study how the shellfish clean the Chesapeake Bay, prompting public fishery managers to post signs warning people to stay out of the reserves.

The poachers used tongs and dredges to take the healthy, 2-year-old oysters from the sites in the Choptank River. The reefs were built three years ago at a cost of about $87,000. The three are part of 16 publicly financed oyster reefs in Maryland waters, all of which are off-limits to oystering. The reefs were built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with help from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. ...

Taking technology to the limit would result in much cleaner Bay

If the Bay states pulled out all of the stops and did everything possible to clean up the Chesapeake, they couldn’t return it to the condition found by John Smith almost 400 years ago.

But, a recent Bay Program computer estimate suggests they might get more than halfway there, at least in terms of nutrient reductions.

The estimate, which suggests far greater nutrient reductions are possible than what was thought only a few years ago, is not just an academic exercise. By the end of 2001, the Bay states are to adopt new nutrient and sediment reduction goals that will achieve a “clean” Chesapeake Bay by 2010. ...

Shenandoah treatment plant to use wastewater for irrigation

A new wastewater treatment plant on the Shenandoah River has the potential, if all goes according to plan, to achieve a goal of the original 1972 Clean Water Act: zero discharge.

Instead of pouring wastewater into the river, the facility, which handles waste from two towns and two poultry processors, is using treated water to irrigate crops. It should keep at least 200,000 pounds of nutrients a year out of the Shenandoah.

Sheaffer International, an Illinois-based firm that designed and operates the plant, touts it as a “whole new paradigm in wastewater treatment” because it is using the water as a resource, rather than a waste. ...

Industries taking initiative, big bite out of nutrient discharges

Not long ago, the AlliedSignal Hopewell Plant in Virginia was the world’s largest supplier of ammonium sulfate fertilizer — and the largest single source of nitrogen discharges into the James River.

Today, the plant — now owned by Honeywell — remains the world’s largest supplier of ammonium sulfate, as well as the producer of a number of other products. But now, the plant stands out as the single largest source of nitrogen reduction in the James watershed.

“As our production has increased over the years, we have put much effort into reducing the impact the Hopewell Plant has on the James River,” said plant manager Rick Higbie. ...

Study calls ballast water a potential route for pathogens to enter Bay

Ships traveling from port to port have become a “long-distance dispersal mechanism” for microorganisms, moving human pathogens such as cholera and other microbes around the globe — and into the Chesapeake Bay, according to a new study.

While it has long been known that fish, clams and other aquatic organisms are transferred from place to place by ships, the analysis by Bay region scientists is the first time anyone examined microbes in ballast water in the Chesapeake.

On average, ballast water samples taken from 15 ships revealed nearly a billion bacteria and roughly 7 billion virus-like particles per liter, the scientists reported in the Nov. 2 issue of the journal Nature. ...

Clinton administration expands national forest protection plan

The Clinton administration in November expanded a plan to restrict logging, mining and road building on some of the nation’s most pristine and remote national forest land.

The plan, which still could be revised, would protect 58.5 million acres, an area nearly the size of Oregon that encompasses almost a third of all national forest land.

The major change from the original proposal announced in May was the inclusion of 9.3 million acres in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. ...

Voters back conservation measures in most elections

Voters across the nation overwhelmingly approved ballot measures to fund open space protection this year, according to the Land Trust Alliance.

The alliance found that 162 of 204 ballot questions passed, providing more than $7 billion for land conservation. The group was still tracking the results of 10 measures before voters in November.

In most cases, voters approved tax increases to pay for land conservation.

The group said the results show continued voter support for open space protection. In 1999, voters passed 90 percent of 102 referenda, authorizing more than $1.8 billion in local taxing authority for bonds for open space protection. In 1998, voters passed 84 percent of 148 measures across the country, providing about $8.3 billion for land protection. ...

Congress approves 6-year conservation program

The federal government could spend about $12 billion on local, state and national land conservation programs over the next six years under legislation approved by Congress and signed by President Clinton.

The legislation was a scaled-back version of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) which had won broad support from environmental groups and states and would have provided $3 billion annually for conservation programs over 15 years.

The compromise bill, dubbed “CARA-lite” by some, calls for spending $1.2 billion in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, and gradually increasing to $1.8 billion annually over the next five years. ...

Preservation goal is challenging but doable

The Bay states and the federal government may need to spend about $1.65 billion over the next decade to meet the Bay Program goal of permanently preserving one-fifth of the watershed as open space.

But with interest in land conservation growing at both the state and federal levels, odds are good that the region will be able to meet the objective, according to a preliminary analysis prepared by the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit organization that works to protect land nationwide.

“That is very achievable, given your history,” Debi Osborne, director of the Trust’s Chesapeake Bay Field Office, told the Chesapeake Bay Commission at its November meeting. “But to accomplish this, you need more money.” ...

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