Previous month:
January 2011
Next month:
March 2011

February 2011

Gov. O'Malley's Septic Proposal: Anti-Pollution, Pro-Chesapeake Bay

O'malleybesideriver Here are some facts to consider in the heated debate over whether or not Maryland should discourage major new real estate developments on septic systems. 

Septic systems are essentially individual waste tanks for homes and businesses, and Governor Martin O'Malley highlighted them as an environmental problem in his February 4 "State of the State" speech because, as he put it, "by their very design (they) are intended to leak sewage ultimately into our Bay and into our water tables." 

The number of homes on septic systems in Maryland is growing, even though they release nitrogen pollution at about five times the rate as developments hooked up to  sewage treatment systems.

Continue reading "Gov. O'Malley's Septic Proposal: Anti-Pollution, Pro-Chesapeake Bay" »

Virginia Wetlands Spared Legislative Mischief

Smith Farm Wetland 2 A few weeks ago, Bay Daily told readers about troubling bills in the Virginia General Assembly that would eliminate the state’s oversight protection of large tracts of nontidal wetlands when a permit is required by the federal government.

The two bills sought to nix Virginia’s role in approving or denying permits to developers when they want to damage or destroy a large expanse of nontidal wetlands. The legislation would leave that responsibility strictly to the US Army Corps of Engineers, whose authority over nontidal wetlands currently is in legal limbo. More on that in a moment.   

First the good news: thanks to a timely and aggressive lobbying effort by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Wetlands Watch,  other conservation partners, and many citizens, these misguided wetland bills died early in the Virginia legislative session. Though they didn’t survive, the bills nonetheless represent a classic example of how a local special interest can potentially cause a statewide train wreck.

Continue reading "Virginia Wetlands Spared Legislative Mischief" »

MD Attorney General to Poultry Industry: Get the Arsenic Out of Chicken

Arsenicpressconference 029 Waiter, I’ll take the chicken without the carcinogen, thanks.

That was the message delivered today by Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, who joined with 18 state lawmakers, a Johns Hopkins School of Public Health scientist and environmentalists in pushing for state legislation that would ban arsenic in chicken feed.

“This is a public health issue,” Gansler (at right in photo) said at a press conference in Annapolis, flanked by the bill’s lead sponsors, Sen. Paul Pinksy of Prince George's County (middle) and Del. Tom Hucker of Montgomery County (left).   “It’s hard to imagine who would be on the other side of this issue, and say ‘Yes, I do want arsenic in my chicken and in my water.'"

Not many consumers know it, but 70 percent to 90 percent of all broiler chickens in the U.S. are fed a form of arsenic as an additive to their corn and protein, according to a 2007 scientific journal article in Environmental Science & Technology and the poultry industry.  That may sound odd, because arsenic is a well known poison -- used, for example, to kill rats.

Continue reading "MD Attorney General to Poultry Industry: Get the Arsenic Out of Chicken" »

Name the Bay Critter Contest


 "Hey, who turned out the lights? Mom? Where are you?" The first reader to correctly identify this Chesapeake Bay critter will win a free Chesapeake Bay Foundation T-Shirt.  Enter your guesses in the comment section below. Ready, set, go! 

UPDATE:  It is a day-old Atlantic sturgeon larva. The prize winner is Kelly Yachera, an environmental science student at Salisbury University who recognized what the larva looked like from visiting a Maryland Department of Natural Resources sturgeon hatchery.  Congratulations, Kelly! 

Sturgeon Atlantic sturgeon, dinosaur-era fish with bony plates instead of scales, were once so common in the Chesapeake Bay that they would jam rivers like logs during their springtime spawning. They can grow up to 14 feet long and 800 pounds -- so massive that Native Americans told tales about jumping on their backs and riding them.  Now they are so rare they are being considered for endangered species protections by the federal government.

Continue reading "Name the Bay Critter Contest" »

Former PA Official: Beware of Drilling's Pollution and "Shameful" Political Influence

Quigley As Maryland considers whether to allow hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, it should avoid the environmental damage that Pennsylvania has suffered and the “shameful” example of the drilling industry’s political influence in that state, a former top Pennsylvania official told a Maryland General Assembly committee today.

John Quigley, former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (photo above), told the Maryland House Environmental Matters Committee that natural gas also has environmental benefits, such as creating less air pollution and mercury contamination than coal.

But he cautioned Maryland lawmakers that there are “ample reasons” to be concerned about water pollution and other serious problems from drilling. The wastewater produced by drilling “is hundreds of times saltier than seawater,” Quigley said.  “And it can come back with naturally occurring radioactive material.”

He added: “We have already experienced major problems with natural gas migration and contamination  of drinking wells… We have had well blow-outs and fire… We have gas bubbling into the Susquehanna River, to everyone’s surprise.”

“A go-slow approach is justifiable,” Quigley advised Maryland officials. “New York is taking a pause” to study hydraulic fracturing before allowing large-scale drilling, he noted.  “Take as much time as you can to understand these issues.”

Continue reading "Former PA Official: Beware of Drilling's Pollution and "Shameful" Political Influence" »

Once-Decimated Chesapeake Bay Oysters Now Reproducing More

OysterBehold! Pearls of good news about Chesapeake Bay oysters! Oyster reproduction and survival in 2010 were better than they have been in 13 years in Maryland, according to numbers from a scientific survey released today by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Despite a history of disease, the percentage of oysters found alive in samples taken from the Bay was 88 percent, the highest level in a quarter century, according to the state figures.  This was more than double the survivorship rate in 2002.

This suggests that oysters may be developing more resistance to the once-devastating diseases MSX and Dermo, state biologists said -– echoing the conclusions of a Chesapeake Bay Foundation report last year.

Continue reading "Once-Decimated Chesapeake Bay Oysters Now Reproducing More " »

Newtonian Theory: Abolish EPA.

Epalogo Despite recent attacks on EPA from anti-regulatory ideologues, a new poll finds that most Americans want the federal environmental agency to do more, not less.

EPA-love is not the tune some politicians are singing. During a speech in Iowa on January 25, possible Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich declared that EPA should be abolished. "The EPA is based on bureaucrats centered in Washington issuing regulations and litigation and basically opposing things," Gingrich told the Associated Press.

That doesn't sound good. But get a grip on your Gingrich. 

Continue reading "Newtonian Theory: Abolish EPA. " »

MD Governor Proposes Ban on Major Developments With Septic Systems

Sprawl Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley made a bold and laudable move against suburban sprawl recently by proposing a ban on major developments hooked up to septic systems. These leak more pollution into the Chesapeake Bay than projects with sewer systems. During his "state of the state" speech on Thursday, O'Malley said the Chesapeake would be helped by eliminating systems which "by their very design are intended to leak sewage ultimately into our bay and into our water tables ...This is common sense; this is urgently needed."

Developers blasted the idea. But CBF Maryland Executive Director Kim Coble praised it, saying: "All the progress we hope to make in reducing pollution from other sources — wastewater treatment plants, urban and suburban streets, coal plants, cars, farms — all could be undone if we continue to allow sprawl growth using septic systems in our rural areas."

Continue reading "MD Governor Proposes Ban on Major Developments With Septic Systems" »

Progress Down on the Farm

Much in the news are stories about cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, pollution diets, state watershed implementation plans, and a Farm Bureau lawsuit against EPA.

M Wastler But far away from the headlines and heated rhetoric, good people are quietly doing good work to improve water quality and their farms. That’s the view of Mark Wastler (left), a Chesapeake Bay Foundation restoration field technician and working farmer reaching out to farmers in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Wastler’s job is to engage farmers in conversations about conservation. He tries to convince them that there are practical, affordable ways to employ clean-water practices that benefit local stream health and their farms.

His focus is a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) grant project targeting three streams in Rockingham County: Cooks Creek, Muddy Creek, and Lower Dry River. All have multiple cattle and poultry farms in their drainage areas, and all three streams are polluted by bacteria and sediment or have unhealthy benthic (bottom) conditions. The goal of the grant project is to fence out livestock along the lengths of the three streams.

Continue reading "Progress Down on the Farm" »