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Report: PA Losing Ground in Clean-Water Efforts

Agriculture accounts for 93% of the nitrogen pollution reductions needed to meet Pennsylvania's Clean Water Blueprint commitments. (asafaric/Adobe Stock)
Agriculture accounts for 93% of the nitrogen pollution reductions needed to meet Pennsylvania's Clean Water Blueprint commitments. (asafaric/Adobe Stock)
August 14, 2020

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A new report shows Pennsylvania needs to do much more to meet its goal under the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint.

Three states are responsible for about 90% of the pollution damaging the bay. The report, from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, says Virginia and Maryland have plans in place that should meet their pollution-reduction goals - but Pennsylvania's plan falls far short, and the state hasn't budgeted the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to implement it.

William Baker, foundation president, said by approving that plan, the federal Environmental Protection Agency isn't holding the state accountable.

"The U.S. EPA has failed to do its job during this," said Baker, "the final and most important phase of the cleanup effort."

The most recent report from Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection found almost 25,500 miles of impaired waterways in the state, a 25% increase from 2016.

Harry Campbell, director of the Pennsylvania Science Policy and Advocacy with the foundation, said the General Assembly has not invested enough in conservation to keep up with the state's commitment to reduce water pollution from farms, wastewater and stormwater runoff.

"As a result, the state is significantly behind in achieving its load reductions from the agricultural sector," said Campbell, "and our urban and suburban sectors as well."

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is helping coordinate efforts to plant 95,000 acres of streamside forested buffers in the state to keep pollution from reaching rivers and streams.

Baker called for federal funds, matched by the state, to assist Pennsylvania farmers in reducing agricultural pollution. He added the other watershed states have roles to play, as well.

"When the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council holds its annual meeting next week," said Baker, "its members can address Pennsylvania's shortfall and commit to their own plan, as a partnership, to get the Commonwealth back on track."

He said the foundation also is preparing a federal lawsuit to require the EPA to enforce federal clean-water laws.

Disclosure: Chesapeake Bay Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Energy Policy, Rural/Farming, Sustainable Agriculture, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA