A Comeback for the "Founding Fish" in the Nation's River
Federal Government is Failing to Meet Bay Cleanup Promises

‘Tis the Season for Some Good Clean Water News

Schlyer-cbr-8502.stormwaterSome good news to report this week from Virginia, thanks in part to hundreds of clean water advocates who contacted state officials and urged them to make important changes to reduce pollution.

This week, Virginia’s State Water Control Board, the citizen board overseeing water pollution rules and regulations in the Commonwealth, approved two permits that should help reduce polluted runoff going into Chesapeake Bay streams and rivers.

One permit is aimed at reducing dirt and other pollution running off construction sites. If you’ve ever seen dirt tracked off a construction lot or mud running off a building site after a heavy rain, you understand why it’s important to control this pollution. Muddy construction runoff can quickly foul local streams and rivers, smothering fish, clams, oysters, underwater plants, and other aquatic life. The dirty water also increases the cost of treating drinking water for localities downstream.

The five-year permit approved by the Water Board this week strengthens runoff requirements. For example, it requires contractors to develop and follow a runoff prevention plan with tough pollution reduction controls, including prompt stabilization of disturbed areas and more frequent site inspections to identify and fix runoff problems.

It also includes assurances that builders’ runoff pollution plans will remain open and available for public inspection, a feature that state officials had proposed eliminating. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and other groups, however, strongly objected to the state’s proposal to keep the plans secret. So did more than 420 individual citizens who responded to a CBF “action alert” last summer, contacted Virginia officials, and demanded full transparency for the new permit.

Virginia environmental officials and Water Board members got the message. The new Virginia Potomac FLS 043construction general permit requires construction runoff prevention plans remain available for full public review.

Also this week, the Water Board approved a five-year permit aimed at reducing runoff pollution from industrial sites around Virginia. While the permit doesn’t include all the requirements that CBF and other clean water advocates argued for, it does require industries to begin a long-term testing program to monitor and report how much nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runs off their properties.

Once that information is in hand, the state intends to strengthen future industry permits and require specific runoff reductions consistent with the goals of Virginia’s Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. That’s the state’s plan to implement all the actions needed by 2025 to restore the Bay to good health.

Some progress is better than no progress, and this week’s actions by Virginia will advance the state’s Bay cleanup efforts. That’s good news for this holiday season.

Chuck Epes

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

(Photos: Top, Krista Schlyer/iLCP; bottom, CBF staff)

 

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