What’s delaying greater improvements to Chesapeake Bay water quality?

WASHINGTON — An agreement among Chesapeake Bay watershed states and the feds to improve the health of the bay is now at the halfway point toward 2025 goals, and a new report card notes progress and failures.

Water quality is improving, dead zones shrinking, grasses thriving and oyster populations are growing because of efforts related to the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint agreement according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).

“A lot has been accomplished, the bay is getting cleaner, the species we love are coming back, but there is a huge amount left to do,” CBF President William C. Baker said. “We have to keep up the momentum, we have got to keep pushing.”

Virginia and Maryland deserve credit, Baker said, for progress resulting mostly from upgrades to sewage treatment plants. But he said addressing pollution from agriculture, lawns and street sources has been difficult and less successful.

Pennsylvania is falling far behind goals to improve runoff from agriculture, he said.

“The Federal Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, needs to impose sanctions on Pennsylvania,” Baker said.

Discussions about postponing deadlines for improvements past the agreed upon 2025 disturb Baker who said any delay would send a signal that states and the government aren’t sincere about wanting to save the bay.

“This Clean Water Blueprint actually was started as a result of a settlement to litigation the Chesapeake Bay Foundation brought back in 2008. So, we might have to go back to court, but we might look for other ways to try to encourage the deadline to be held firm,” Baker said.

Federal efforts to rescind air pollution controls also concern Baker. Air pollution is responsible for roughly one third of the nitrogen pollution that’s damaging local rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

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