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Bay's Water Getting Cleaner but Hard Work Ahead

More than 35,000 family farms are in the Pennsylvania portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. (12019/Pixabay)
More than 35,000 family farms are in the Pennsylvania portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. (12019/Pixabay)
May 31, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Chesapeake Bay is getting cleaner, but a new analysis says much more needs to be done to clean up pollution coming from Pennsylvania rivers and streams.

The midpoint assessment of compliance with the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint shows the water in the bay is clearer and aquatic vegetation and marine life are returning. Overall, the watershed states met the midpoint goal of a 60 percent reduction in phosphorus and sediment pollution.

But according to Harry Campbell, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Pennsylvania office, that recovery is based almost entirely on improvements in wastewater treatment.

"We haven't kept pace with our commitments in terms of implementing the practices that reduce pollution coming off of the land, keeping soils and nutrients on the land where they do good,” Campbell said.

With more than 35,000 family farms in the Pennsylvania portion of the Chesapeake watershed, agricultural runoff remains the leading source of nitrogen pollution. Campbell pointed out that many small farmers need help to implement cost-effective practices to prevent that runoff from getting into the 6,800 miles of Pennsylvania streams impaired by agricultural pollution.

"In order for them to be able to implement these practices, manage them and basically adapt to them, technical and financial assistance is oftentimes critical to the overall effort,” he said.

Campbell said educational outreach is also critical, as well as compliance with and enforcement of existing state clean-water laws. He said Pennsylvania has a plan to achieve the goals of the Clean Water Blueprint by the 2025 deadline, but the state and federal governments need to commit sufficient resources for implementation.

"Then and only then will we be successful in not only achieving our Chesapeake Bay commitments as a Commonwealth but improving the health condition of our rivers and streams right here in Pennsylvania,” he said.

Part of that plan, now under way, is the planting of 10 million trees along Pennsylvania streams and streets to absorb runoff and stabilize the soil.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA