As called for by the Bay states, the region's counties, cities, and towns are now trying to figure out the best, most cost-effective ways to reduce their fair share of the pollution fouling local rivers and creeks and, ultimately, the Bay.
These local strategies aren’t due to states and EPA for another several months, and there are still lots of questions, evolving answers, discussion, even debate, about what those plans should look like.
In Lynchburg, Va., for example, the city council is debating whether to impose a runoff fee on all property owners to help pay for improvements to the city’s stormwater system. Such improvements would reduce pollution going into the James River, a major Bay tributary, but could cost as much as $120 million to accomplish by 2025, according to an article this week in the Lynchburg News & Advance.
How to raise such funding, who should pay, and how much are not easy questions to answer. Lynchburg hasn’t made a decision yet on the runoff fee; public hearings are scheduled next month.
Another tool in the local toolbox to reduce urban runoff pollution is public education and awareness. Chesterfield County, Va., for example, this week partnered with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) to recruit citizen volunteers to help put small placards on storm drains in a county shopping center. The placards warn would-be polluters that anything going down the storm drain will wind up in the James River.
Individual citizens can not only volunteer to participate in such public awareness efforts to help spread the word about reducing pollution, they – each of us – can take action to reduce our own pollution impact on the Bay.
For example, the Virginia Department of Health estimates that each Virginia citizen contributes between 9 and 12 pounds of nitrogen pollution to the wastewater leaving homes and businesses on its way to a local sewage treatment plant or into a backyard septic tank. Much of that nitrogen is from body wastes, but some is from food waste washed down automatic sink disposals and from commercial cleansers used to wash clothes and dishes and for other household chores.
It costs millions of dollars for treatment plants to remove that nitrogen before the wastewater is dumped back into local rivers. And EPA estimates that 40 percent of the nitrogen going into septic systems passes right through to nearby streams.
So we can all help reduce nitrogen pollution making its way to the Bay and help reduce the costs of our hometown wastewater treatment plants by doing simple things in our homes. For example, try composting food waste rather than shoving it down the sink disposal; compost makes great fertilizer for your gardening needs. Try using less environmentally harmful cleansers; for a handy list, click here.
And to find out how much pollution you may be contributing to your local waterways and how to reduce your “Bay footprint” in other ways, click here.
Yes, the Bay cleanup is shifting to localities. That means it is shifting to you and me. If we all do our individual part to pull on this oar, we will successfully propel the Chesapeake Bay to good health.
Ready to pull?
Chesapeake Bay Foundation