Saving Shells, Saving the Bay
21 State Attorneys General Oppose Chesapeake Bay Pollution Limits

Proposed New Bay Agreement Moves Backward on Toxic Pollution

Krista Schlyer ILCPThe more than 30-year-old regional partnership of governments called the Chesapeake Bay Program recently released a proposed new draft agreement for improving the estuary’s health.

Two previous Chesapeake Bay agreements, in 1987 and 2000, resulted in some improvements to water quality in the Bay and its tributaries.  But overall, the state governments in the region and Washington, D.C., fell far short of the goals in those agreements.  As a result, in December 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stepped in and issued pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay and warned of financial consequences to the state governments and D.C. if they did not implement programs by 2025 to restore the Bay to health.  The states then issued plans to meet these limits called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint

CBF Vice President for Environmental Protection and Restoration Kim Coble said there are some things to celebrate in the proposed new Bay agreement, such as the fact that it holds states accountable to the Clean Water Blueprint.  But she added that the new draft agreement is “shortsighted” in that it eliminates an important goal in the last agreement: to reduce toxic pollutants in the Bay, such as mercury.  “CBF is shocked that the new draft Agreement contains no specific goals to reduce toxic contamination,” Coble said.

“Twenty years ago the Executive Council debated, then agreed to set a goal of eliminating toxic impacts in the Bay," Coble said. "This draft agreement moves us backward not forward with regard to stopping toxic pollution.”

The new proposed agreement is also lacking because it fails to discuss climate change.

“We are also shocked that this draft Agreement fails to address one of the most critical environmental challenges to our planet: global climate change.  How could this be possible in 2014?” Coble said.

These are two areas in which the new agreement needs to be strengthened.

“CBF acknowledges the hard work and commitment that has led to progress restoring the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams during the past 30 years," Coble said. “There is much about which everyone should feel proud, but there is still more work to do.”

 You can read the January 29 draft proposal here.  The public is invited to comment on the proposal through March 17 by visiting this website

By Tom Pelton

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

(Photo by Krista Schlyer/ILCP) 





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Allowing developers to pollute as long as they pay a RAIN TAX is ridiculous. Government waste will suck up the tax as it always has.

Why should those of us who don't produce any stormwater runoff pay a RAIN TAX?

Why should those of us who maintain our property in an ecologically sound manner be taxed so that others can pollute?

Why should those of us who have ecollogically sound septic systems be taxed to pay for big government's failing sewerage systems? And don't give me that "nitrogen" BS from septic tanks. It makes no sense especially when we have millions of gallons of raw untreated sewage, used syringes, medical waste, etcetera flowing into our waters from government's sewerage systems. They are failures and always will be.

It has been over 10 years since the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has recorded successful smallmouth bass spawns in the Susquehanna River. Nearly 100% of male bass have severe feminization problems and young and old bass have been dying from opportunistic infections because or impaired immunity. For 4 years 20-25% of adult smallmouth that I've caught in the mainstem of the river have had melanotic hyperpigmentation (black spots) which at last one researcher has reported as invasive melanoma in other species of fish. The rock bass has almost become extinct. The U.S. Geological Service has documented 30-40 toxic chemicals found in smallmouth organs including congeners of PCB,pesticides,herbicides and personal care chemical byproducts. Citizens all along the Susquehanna are drinking the water containing these chemicals that are affecting the fish. We have a serious toxic pollution problem in the watershed! Just who is dealing with this problem? It does not appear that anyone is nor that anyone really cares. It is more than an embarassment!!


Paul, if you drive a car, you use roads and parking lots -- and therefore contribute to stormwater runoff pollution. So you and everyone else should contribute to paying for systems to catch and filter that polluted runoff so it does not contaminate our streams. Blacktopping our watershed causes damage that can be reduced through projects funded by runoff control fees.

William, I agree with you completely. It is shocking that the Bay area states want to drop toxic pollutants from the new Chesapeake agreement. It is not yet clear what is causing the deaths and intersex problems among smallmouth bass. But it is clear that loosening up our goals for controlling toxic pollutants can't help.

Mr. Pelton -

To say it is not clear what is the cause of the smallmouth problem in the Susquehanna is parroting the words of those who would prefer to ignore the facts and create confusion(politicians and agencies which have ignored their responsibility). When the three major problems affecting the smallmouth (alteration in sexual physiology,impairment of immune function and impairment of melanin production and deposition) can all be traced to endocrine disruption from the scores of toxic organic chemicals found in their is a little disingenuous to conclude that the cause is not yet clear. The cause is being ignored as in this recent agreement.

William L. Yingling M.D.

If I am "parroting" anyone's words, it is not those of politicians -- but those of a leading expert on the problems in smallmouth bass, Dr. Vicki Blazer of U.S. Geological Survey.

Dr. Blazer views endocrine disrupting chemicals as a likely suspect in the problems plaguing the fish. But she is also investigating other possible factors, such as parasites and viruses.

It may be a complex interaction of several factors (including endocrine disrupting chemicals) that is killing the fish in the Susuquehanna River.

Dr. Blazer helped the Chesapeake Bay Foundation with a report on the subject last year, called Angling for Healthier Rivers. You can read about it here:

I respect and try to read all of Dr. Blazers work. I communicated with her after reading her report on the black spots. In the cytologic evaluation of the tissue, newer DNA markers were not used which are used today in the research and diagnosis of melanoma. I was told they were not available to her research at the time. At least one other researcher believes some of these black lesions represent invasive melanoma in another species of fish.
We have had 10 years of unsuccessful smallmouth spawns and excessive mortality from opportunistic infections (commonly seen with immune impairment). For the last 4 years significant numbers of smallmouth have presented with black spots. And yet we have no explanation? Why? Is this not the 21st century? Could it be for the same reasons that after more than 25 years (1987) we have only seen a minimal improvement in the bay?
The USGS does not have the money, staff, technology or urgency to answer these issues. Perhaps they are restrained by a government and industrial lobby that prefers obfuscation to truthful answers.
Because the answers will be alarming and the solutions will be economically devastating.

William L. Yingling M.D.

You may well be right. But here's something that I don't understand: Why is it that smallmouth bass have been dying off in the Susquehanna River, and populations there have remained depressed, for years -- yet they have not died off in the Potomac or other Chesapeake Bay region rivers? And when fish kills have happened in these other rivers, why have the smallmouth bounced back -- but not in the Susquehanna?

One might think that if endocrine disrupting chemicals (from sewage treatment plants or farm fields, for example) were the main culprit, these same pollutants exist in both the Susquehanna and the Potomac Rivers and other rivers, as well.

So what makes the Susquehanna River different? It raises the possibility that (in addition to the endocrine disrupting chemicals) something else is also stressing the smallmouth in the Susquehanna ....perhaps an invasive species of parasite that has not yet moved to the other rivers.

I know that parasites are something that Dr. Blazer and her colleagues at the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission are looking into right now.

Dying off and rebound are relative terms. From the data I have read and the smallmouth fishermen that I have spoken with from the Maryland and Virginia tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay I would say that many of those waterways remain impaired. Smallmouth have never died off from the Susquehanna. I can take you to places where you can catch quite a few smallmouth. The level of impairment depends on the type of chemicals and their concentration in the waterway.
But there are 2 common physiologic problems common in all the tributaries. Physiologic sexual changes and high mortality from opportunistic infections (not infections from esoteric organisms but common organisms that have always existed in the waterways). From phthalates in plastics, to chemicals in personal care products, to the herbicides in farming chemicals and Agent Orange in Vietnam Vets...the common finding includes changes in sexual and other types of body physiology and diseases associated with changes in immune function in the organism. Cancer is an immune driven disease. Melanoma is the fastest growing skin cancer in humans and if these wild fish demonstrate evidence of melanoma it is very significant.
Why would only the Susquehanna smallmouth have melanoma? I can't tell you for sure but with 30+ different chemicals in their organs it could be because of one chemical or the synergism produced by several different chemicals.
One factor the southern tributaries to the bay lack is the sigificant impact of fracking. Black spots appeared predominately in Susquehanna smallmouth in 2010. Frack water was being discharged into the Susquehanna for at least 5 years prior to 2010 from power plants and sewer authorities all along the Susquehanna. That makes the Susquehanna different from other tribs indeed.
Look for a parasite,cloud the facts all you want but we will see the problem clearly by looking in the mirror.

William L. Yingling M.D.

I already pay road taxes to cover the costs of road contruction/ maint and run-off abatement. But the road funds are robbed by our politicians to pay for social programs and other non road related expenses that keep them elected. Then the pollution run-off abatement that they are implementing is often wasteful and counter productive (except to the construction firms making big bucks installing them and contributing to potical campaigns). Whether you call it a "Rain Tax" or "Fee" we know government will waste it and polluters will continue to pollute. Environmentalists used to complain when corps polluted and simply paid the fines as a cost of doing business. I don't see a Rain Tax or Stormwater fee as being any different.

Well, except that the stormwater pollution control fees actually do reduce pollution by paying for the construction of ponds, rain gardens, and other projects that filter runoff.

It's healthy to be skeptical of government, but not so skeptical that you refuse to give any money for any project -- because you fear it will all be wasted, anyway.

By that logic, we should stop paying for our police departments and public libraries because that money will just be "wasted by government" anyway.

Yes, we should hold government accountable to make sure our tax dollars are spent wisely. But no, we should not try to kill a logical and productive clean water program like Maryland's 2012 stormwater pollution control law just because we don't trust government. That would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater (or stormwater, in this case).

The trouble is that as an environmentally responsible person I have never owned a home where runoff left my property.

But now CBF wants me to subsidize polluted runoff created by developers and shopping malls rather than make them treat their own runoff responsibly like thousands of your CBF followers do.

this looks more and more like a tax scheme that benefits MD politicians and developers.

It does not benefit developers, Paul. The money goes to county governments, who pay engineers and construction workers to build stormwater control ponds and rain gardens and other pollution filtration systems.

The taxes you pay for roads are not enough to pay for the entire cost of filtering the polluted runoff from those roads, let alone the parking lots you also use when you go shopping, etc.

If you did not drive, and lived in a grass-roofed hut in the woods and walked everywhere to scrounge up roots and herbs, then, ok, you would not deserve to pay any stormwater control fees.

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