EPA Issues New Rules For Chesapeake Watershed
In response to a 2009 presidential order to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created new water-quality regulations that affect Fulton County and the rest of the more than 64,000- square-mile area that makes up the Bay’s watershed.
These new regulations, known as The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), are the latest in a decades-long effort to clean up the Bay.
Because the new TMDL may require more compliance between local farmers and the government, the Fulton County Conservation District (FCCD) is hosting an Ag Winter Meeting at the Fulton Theater, on Saturday, February 26, to address new regulations and compliance requirements. Along with the TMDL, issues such as mortality composting, spreader calibration and renewable energy will be discussed.
The TMDL aims to clean up the Bay by localizing pollution reductions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment and by setting pollution limits, necessary to meet suitable water quality standards, in the Bay itself. According to the EPA, the TMDL ensures “that all pollution control measures, to fully restore the Bay and its tidal rivers, will be in place by 2025, with 60 percent of the actions completed by 2017.”
“Pennsylvania has been part of the Chesapeake Bay agreement for many years,” FCCD watershed specialist Scott Alexander said. What is happening now “doesn’t represent any stricter set of regulations for farmers.”
But with EPA involvement, previous state regulations that have not met goals are being enforced.
To monitor the implementation of the TMDL, each state in the Bay watershed ( Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, Virginia and West Virginia) and the District of Columbia worked with the EPA to create a specific Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP). According to the EPA, the WIPs “detail how and when the six Bay states and the District of Columbia will meet pollution allocations.”
Regarding WIPs, FCCD district manager Seleen Shives said, “We are starting with baseline compliance requirements – every farm in Fulton County has to have a conservation plan and a manure management plan.”
WIPs are divided into twoyear milestones that are overseen by the EPA. If a jurisdiction’s progress toward meeting its two-year milestone is insufficient, action may be taken by the EPA “to ensure pollution reductions.”
Examples of orders included in Pennsylvania’s WIP are (1) dramatically increasing enforcement and compliance of state requirements for agriculture; and (2) committing state funding to develop and implement state-of-the-art technologies for converting animal manure to energy for farms.
“Quite a few farms already have conservation plans in Fulton County,” said Brad Michael, district conservationist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Fulton County. He added that new technologies in manure management have been adopted as well. “The key is to further implement the plans.”
Although agriculture regulations are the TMDL’s main focus for rural areas in the watershed, they alone will not restore the Chesapeake Bay. According to Penn State’s College of Agricultural Science, wastewater and urban stormwater account for more than half of the nitrogen and phosphorus in the Bay.
“We all have a role to play. We all contribute. This needs to be a joint effort if its going to be successful,” said Michael.
The meeting on February 26 takes place from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with lunch provided, in the Fulton Theater. There is no cost. For further information, contact the Fulton County Conservation District at 717-485-3547.