'Pollution budget' for bay continues

Daily pollution limits to be set next year

By PAMELA WOOD, Staff Writer
The Capital, 12/11/09

BALTIMORE - The federal government is moving forward with its plan to create a "pollution budget" for the Chesapeake Bay.

Federal officials stopped in Baltimore Tuesday to offer more details about the budget as part of a road trip through the bay's six-state watershed.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is setting a baywide limit for how much nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment can flow into the bay. EPA officials are working with the states to divvy up that total amount among different river systems.

"We're not trying to point fingers," said Rich Batiuk, the associate director for science at the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program.

Batiuk said the aim is to divide up pollution limits "not equally, but equitably."

Dividing up pollution not only means geographically, but also assigning limits to different sources, such as farms, sewage plants, construction sites, industrial sites and stormwater.

The first draft of the pollution budget - officially called a "Total Maximum Daily Load" or TMDL - will be unveiled in the summer.

More than 100 people attended the briefing at the Maryland Department of the Environment's headquarters in Baltimore, many from local governments and industries that will be affected, such as home builders.

Currently, the total pollution budget is expected to be 200 million pounds of nitrogen per year and 15 million pounds of phosphorus.

In 2008, baywide pollution was 283 million pounds of nitrogen and 16.3 million pounds of phosphorus, so there's quite a ways to go.

For the Western Shore of Maryland, an area that includes most of Anne Arundel County, the new pollution budget limits are expected to be 10.2 million pounds of nitrogen and 0.62 million pounds of phosphorus.

The 2008 levels were 15 million pounds of nitrogen and 0.79 million pounds of phosphorus.

Nitrogen and phosphorus are nutrients that fuel the growth of harmful algae blooms, which suck life-sustaining oxygen from the water when they die. Sediment is tiny particles of dirt that get swept up in the water, making it cloudy and blocking light from reaching underwater grasses.

None of the future meetings is planned for Anne Arundel County.

For information on the pollution budget, visit www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl

(Revised December 2009)