Bay Journal

Topics: Pollution

MD power plant permits up in air as EPA reconsiders discharge rule

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​The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision last year to reconsider a rule directing power plants to reduce toxic pollutants in their wastewater is affecting what Maryland plans to require of three coal-burning facilities in the state. Activists say it’s an example of how the changing federal attitudes toward environmental regulation trickle down to the Chesapeake Bay region.

Five-year pollution discharge permits are up for renewal for these plants: Morgantown on the lower Potomac River in Charles County; Chalk Point on the Patuxent River and Dickerson on the Potomac, north of Washington, DC. All are owned by NRG Energy, Inc., based in Princeton, NJ, though the company is in the process of transferring ownership.

With the future of the EPA rule uncertain, regulators with the Maryland Department of the Environment have tentatively decided to give the facilities at least two years and potentially up to five years before they’d have to curtail discharges of toxic metals like arsenic, mercury and selenium, as well as other pollutants, into the state’s rivers.

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Anacostia River gets its first passing grade

Decades of work to improve the health of the Anacostia River are beginning to pay off, according to a report released Wednesday by the Anacostia Watershed Society. The river earned a “D-minus” on its annual report card, its first...

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About Pollution

Nutrient pollution, the nitrogen and phosphorus that originates from farms, wastewater treatment plants, stormwater runoff and air pollution, is a major source of pollution to the Chesapeake. In the Bay, they spur growth of algae blooms which block sunlight needed by important underwater grass beds. When the algae dies, they are decomposed in a process that depletes the water of oxygen needed by other species.

Sediment eroded from the land and streambanks degrades stream health and reduces water clarity. Toxins and other chemical contaminants also pose a direct threat to fish throughout the Bay and its watershed.

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