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PA Falling Short of EPA Water Milestones

Agricultural runoff is the biggest source of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. (Nicholas/Wikimedia Commons)
Agricultural runoff is the biggest source of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. (Nicholas/Wikimedia Commons)
June 20, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania is falling behind in its efforts to clean up water flowing into the Chesapeake Bay.

Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia are supposed to achieve 60 percent of court ordered Chesapeake Bay pollution reduction goals by 2017.

But according to Harry Campbell, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Pennsylvania office, an assessment released Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency shows the state is only on track to meet that goal for reducing sediment pollution.

"But is languishing significantly behind on its efforts to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, mainly from agricultural runoff sources," he adds.

States have until 2025 to have full pollution-reduction practices in place. The EPA can apply sanctions if goals are not being met, and the agency did withhold, and then release, $2.9 million in funding last year.

The Susquehanna River is the largest source of pollution flowing into the bay. In January, the state unveiled a clean water reboot plan that Campbell says could get pollution reduction efforts back on track.

"But unfortunately, without the necessary funding it will not succeed,” he explains. “And sadly, it is still unclear when or if those vital resources will be made available."

The EPA recommends inspecting 10 percent of the 33,000 farms in the watershed every year, but the state Department of Environmental Protection doesn't have enough inspectors to do that.

Campbell points out the know how is there. Much of the science and technology needed to reach the EPA goals was developed right here in Pennsylvania.

"What we lack is the leadership, the commitment and the investment to do what needs to be done, and clean our waters, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay," he states.

Campbell says Pennsylvania needs to take decisive action now, before the EPA does it for the state.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA