The governors of Chesapeake Bay region states and other top officials are meeting in Washington D.C. tomorrow (Dec. 12) to discuss the state of the nation’s largest estuary. Here are some facts they should read as a wake-up call:
Seventy-one percent of the Bay and its tributaries are failing water quality standards, according to a report issued by the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program last week. Fewer than half (45 percent) of the 467 sewage treatment plants in the region have permits that meet water quality standards to protect the Bay, according to the report, called Bay Barometer. Seventy-four percent of the tidal waterways examined by researchers are contaminated with chemical pollutants.
“This report is a sobering reminder that although we have made progress in reducing pollution, we still have a long way to go to restore local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Senior Water Quality Scientist Beth McGee.
“Because some factors influencing restoration progress, like rainfall and lag times, are beyond our control, we must focus on factors we can control,” McGee said. “Efforts to restore wetlands and forested buffers are far behind what is needed to achieve the 2025 goals. Local jurisdictions need increased support to reduce urban and suburban polluted runoff, the only major pollution source continuing to grow. And more progress must be made to reduce pollution from other sources, including agriculture, septic systems, air, and sewage.”
The Bay Barometer report also includes some good news, including that the population of American shad -– a fish long in decline -– has been rising steadily over the last decade, especially in the Potomac River. The increase has happened because of water quality improvements, upgrades to Washington D.C.’s sewage treatment plant, and the removal of barriers to fish passage in the Potomac.
Trees have been planted along 7,764 miles of streams in the Bay region since 1996, which filters pollutants out of waterways and cools the waters. And 5,503 acres of wetlands have been restored since 2010.
But the Bay still faces obstacles –- for example, in runoff pollution, which continues to grow. Cleaning up this pollution will reduce the risk to human health, create jobs, and leave a lasting legacy for future generations.
When the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council meets tomorrow, elected officials must take these facts into account. They should reaffirm their commitment to meeting 2017 and 2025 deadlines to reduce pollution that are spelled out in a regional cleanup plan called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Cleaning up the region’s waters will reduce the risk to human health, create jobs, and leave a lasting legacy for future generations.
Tomorrow at 12:30 p.m.,the Chesapeake Executive Council will hold a public press event at the U.S. National Arboretum Visitor Center in Washington, D.C. The members are expected to announce a new chair, discuss the Chesapeake Bay Program's thirty-year history, and future restoration efforts, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program website.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation sent the governors and other members of the Executive Council a letter last week with a list of specific recommendations for action. "There is much of which we should feel proud, but as highlighted in the recent Bay Barometer, there is still more work to do," CBF wrote.
To read the letter and the details, click here. The bottom line: The region's states should move forward to efficiently and effectively implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
By Tom Pelton
Chesapeake Bay Foundation