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EPA: PA Falling Far Behind Bay, Waterways Cleanup Plan

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Monday, June 15, 2015   

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania is falling far short of its commitments to clean up local rivers and streams. That affects the quality of life for all of the Commonwealth's residents, and conservation groups say it has to change.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the state's progress on an agreement for cleaner water is far behind where it needs to be. Harry Campbell, executive director of the cbf.orgChesapeake Bay Foundation's Pennsylvania office, said the state has reduced the phosphorus from farm and residential runoff, but more needs to be done on nitrogen and sediment.

"These water bodies, these rivers and streams are vital to our economy, our health, our communities and quality of life," he said. "By meeting this challenge, we can put PA on a path for clean water for generations to come."

The good news, Campbell said, is that simple steps such as buffers next to the streams and better systems for handling animal and municipal waste have been proved to bring dramatic improvements in water quality. He said they can bring back impaired rivers and streams.

"Nutrient pollution as well as sediment pollution is a leading cause of that pollution," he said, "and agricultural runoff and urban/suburban runoff are two of the top three sources of impairment."

The Susquehanna watershed supplies half of the fresh water in the bay. Campbell stressed that Gov. Tom Wolf inherited the problem, but added that the state has to start leading a coordinated and aggressive effort by all the stakeholders.

Campbell said homeowners can take steps such as planting trees and gardens that slow down and filter runoff. Similarly simple steps by farmers can have a huge impact, he said.

"Getting cattle out of streams," he said. "When we remove them from the streams, plant some trees, some vegetation along that stream bank, give them an alternative watering source and design stream crossings, a number of environmental improvements occur."

Some farm lobbying groups, real-estate developers and their allies in office argue that the clean-water plans are a form of over-regulation. However, according to a study done for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, cleaning the waters would add more than $6 billion to the economy.

More information from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is online at cbf.org. EPA findings are at epa.gov.


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