Bay Journal

February 2007 - Volume 17 - Number 11

Ready to trade: PA approves policy to exchange nutrients

Pennsylvania environmental officials are hoping to boost Bay cleanup efforts with a new program that allows people to buy and sell the right to pollute—in the hope that it will improve water quality.

The Department of Environmental Protection issued its final, but controversial, policy governing nutrient trading at the end of December. It will allow wastewater treatment plants to offset discharges that exceed their new permit limits by purchasing “credits” from other facilities, or farmers. ...

Scientists isolate toxin in Pfiesteria piscicida

Pfiesteria piscicida—the “cell from hell”—appears to produce fish-killing toxins when exposed to certain forms of metals under just the right environmental conditions, according to new research.

The work, published by federal scientists in the February issue of the journal, Environmental Science and Technology, is the first to explain how P. piscicida and the closely related P. shumway shift from being harmless single-cell organisms to deadly toxin-producers blamed for massive fish kills in the Bay and North Carolina. ...

Aggregator hatching plans to line up poultry farms with plants

Peter Hughes, figuratively speaking, is sitting on a pile of chicken waste. He’s locked up the rights to buy tons of poultry litter from several large producers and truck it away.

As soon as a wastewater treatment plant owner calls up and says, “Let’s make a deal,” he can give the signal for trucks to roll, scoop up excess manure and haul it out of the Chesapeake watershed, ensuring that it will never contribute to Bay algae blooms.

This will generate nutrient credits that the owner of a plant can use to offset discharges that exceed limits in its permit. That would bring the plant into compliance—for a year, anyway—with its permit requirements without resorting to a potentially costly upgrade. ...

EPA proposal for Blue Plains would slash nitrogen discharges

In what will eventually be a boost for Potomac River water quality and the Bay cleanup, the EPA has proposed strict new limits for the region’s largest wastewater treatment plant that could slash millions of pounds of nitrogen pollution annually.

The agency—after reviewing comments by environmental groups—in December proposed capping nitrogen discharges from the massive Blue Plains wastewater treatment plant, which handles sewage from more than 2.1 million customers in the District of Columbia and parts of Maryland and Virginia. ...

MD lawmakers pledge new push to revive native Chesapeake oysters

Maryland lawmakers say they plan to give a boost to restoration efforts targeting native oysters, while putting the brakes on any efforts to introduce a nonnative species into the Bay.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Busch, speaking at an annual environmental summit in January, said the restoration of native oysters—and not transplantation of imported Asian oysters—would be the top environmental priority this year, although he didn’t say exactly how much should be spent.

“We want to see progress with getting that native oyster replenished,” Busch said. ...

Eco-friendly development on Rappahannock wins over VA activists

Environmentalist John Tippett’s conservation group opposed a new development when it was proposed more than a decade ago on the banks of the Rappahannock River.

Now, the 4,000-home community is rising and Tippett has decided to work with the developer of the eco-friendly development called Haymount.

The Friends of the Rappahannock took a stand against the development before Tippett joined the group. But when Caroline County gave the OK for the homes, he decided to make the best of things. “There was an evolution in our perspective toward Haymount, from being the right development in the wrong place to being a model,” he said. “Their goals fit our goals.” ...

It’s always open season on alien invasive plants

As the old saw goes, you might not see the forest because of all the trees. Today, it’s hard to spot the trees because of all the plants: tangling vines that girdle timber like an octopus; wandering weeds that weave forest floors with stringers and leaves; thorny bushes and sharp grasses that rob flora of essential sunlight and nutrients.

This photosynthetic riffraff, better known to biologists, foresters and ecologists as invasive plants, have been sprouting since at least since 1492, when explorer Christopher Columbus landed in the Bahamas with wheat, barley and rye. Invasive plants proliferated during the 19th century as botanic gardens collected plants from throughout the globe. They were studied, classified, reproduced and sometimes introduced commercially as ornamental shrubs and household plants. Birds and animals helped to spread their seeds. ...

Blue crab population stabilizing, but at lower levels

While the Bay’s blue crab population no longer appears to be overfished, scientists are increasingly perplexed as to why the population of the Chesapeake’s most valuable economic species has not shown signs of returning to former levels of abundance.

The estimated blue crab abundance has rebounded from the record low of 90 million adults in 1999—which spurred new catch restrictions—but the overall population has now remained at lower-than-average abundances for a decade, according to recent stock reports. ...

How a Trade Would Take Place in Pennsylvania


Basic Requirements

Before an entity can trade, it has to meet certain basic requirements.

For agriculture, farms must meet “baseline” measures which include compliance with existing regulations, such as nutrient management requirements, sediment and erosion control plans and confined animal operation rules.

In addition, farmers must meet “threshold” requirements: They may not apply manure within 100 feet of a stream unless they have a minimum 35-foot vegetated buffer along the stream. As an alternative, a farm may meet threshold requirements if it can demonstrate that it has reduced nutrients 20 percent beyond baseline compliance. ...

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